Frustrated with congressional leaders

WINDOW ROCK, Sept. 25, 2014

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I respectfully write this letter to the editor to express my frustration with the U.S. congressional leaders who continually butt into the affairs of Indian nations without regard to our sovereignty status with the U.S. government.

In particular, I am speaking about Rep. Steve Pearce who says he represents the people of New Mexico. I ask which people? The ones who have money and power? What about those who have no money or power? Who speaks for them or represents them?

Pearce symbolizes a dictator of old when Native nations were considered "wards of the government," and were manipulated to suit the needs of the U.S. government. The old concept of "divide and conquer" is still the mindset.

I represent six chapters in the Eastern Navajo Nation Agency and I give voice to these people who feel that they have no representation from the U.S. government.

Pearce is taking a negotiated discussion we had with the Zuni Tribe and is pressuring the Navajo Nation into making a quick decision on the Fort Wingate Army Depot lands. These chapter governments that I represent, as well as the Eastern Navajo Agency Council, have vehemently opposed the Fort Wingate Land Division Act of 2014.

Although Pearce knew this, he has introduced new land division legislation (because the first one didn't work) in the House to further antagonize the situation between our Native nations.

Furthermore, the 22nd Navajo Nation Council, the Navajo Nation governing body, has not taken action in support or non-support of this land division.

History clearly shows the original inhabitants of this land were the Navajo people as documented in numerous studies. These studies show how the U.S. government forcibly removed the Navajo people and destroyed/burned down structures to build their army depot. The U.S. government promised to return the land back to the Navajo once they were done with the land. That time has come!

Navajo people continually advocate for the return of these lands to the original inhabitants -- Navajo. Navajo have deeply rooted connections to this land through traditional and archeological sites, medicinal gathering areas and sacred sites.

There are many unanswered questions that we Navajos have regarding environmental cleanup as this was a military munitions storage site. Also, questions on existing rights-of-way pertaining to roads and railroads, which leads to shared infrastructure. Additionally, the preservation of religious and sacred sites of these historical places as it relates to Navajo people.

I hear the cries of my people for the return of the Fort Wingate lands to the Navajo. Why can't the U.S. congressional leaders heed the cries?

Edmund E. Yazzie
Council Delegate
22nd Navajo Nation Council

Deschene lied to get on the ballot

In June, at the Shiprock presidential forum, I asked Edison Wauneka why Christopher Deschene was allowed to run for the office of Navajo Nation president. Wauneka was then on leave from his Election Administration position to run for office, too.

I asked because Deschene had just openly admitted he did not speak Navajo but promised to learn along the way. Qualifications for president and vice president state a candidate must fluently speak and understand Navajo. There are 11 total requirements.

É My concern here is not based on Deschene's inability to speak or understand Navajo, now public knowledge. In time, the realization that Chris Deschene lied to get on the election ballot began to trouble me.

The discrepancy between Deschene's statements of "leaders don't lie" and his deception on a notarized sworn oath ate away at my belief in his integrity.

... In November 2012, an election challenge concerning a school board candidate's qualifications came to the Navajo Nation Supreme Court.

The judges disqualified the candidate with this very wise opinion: "In our Navajo thinking, great responsibilities of public service are placed on a naat'ánii, greater than may be commonly understood in other jurisdictions. Those who wish to serve must understand his/her own need to self-assess his/her own qualifications under the laws, his/her own abilities to serve, and the great needs of the public that in numerous cases lack the resources to watch over the actions of the naat'ániis they select.

"A candidate may not circumvent express conditions established by the Council by keeping silent until an election is over. Disqualifying conditions that are known to a candidate are not waived simply because an election has taken place.

"In short, the withholding of disqualifying conditions by a candidate goes to the self-assessment expected of a naat'ánii and his/her fitness to serve. The naat'ánii in the circumstances of this case would be expected to voluntarily 'step back'--nát'????' hizhdidoogáá?."

In another section of their consideration, the Supreme Court judges offered this assessment: "Pursuant to 11 N.N.C. ¤ 21(B), all candidates intending to run for specific Navajo Nation elected positions must swear at the time their candidacy applications are filed, in writing, that they meet each and every qualification as set forth in the qualifications statute that are relevant to the position for which they intended to run.

"Pursuant to 11 N.N.C. ¤ 23(A), the NEA is then required to certify a candidate's eligibility on the sole basis of the candidate's attestation in the sworn statement. The candidate is fully aware of the importance of his/her attestation, as pursuant to Section 21(B)(2)(d), the sworn statement must also contain the candidate's acknowledgement 'that he or she may be removed as a candidate in the event his or her application contains a false statement.'"

In summary, it is a candidate's responsibility to tell the truth about his or qualifications and fitness for office. That is the law. All candidates for public office must be held to Navajo law because when we go to the voting booth, we depend on their truthfulness and trust their word. Your word is your honor.

Having said that, we voters can only hope the integrity and leadership platform that Chris champions are actual practices, not just political rhetoric, and he will wisely disqualify himself from the general election process because he did not meet basic requirements for the job when he applied.

Roselyn Beck
Tuba City, Ariz.

Embrace everyone, regardless of fluency

Since the Navajo election, I read about the issue concerning presidential candidate Chris Deschene. I knew something of this matter was going to be expressed and acted upon when candidates for the Navajo Nation president and the Council delegates made themselves known.

When Chris Deschene announced his candidacy, about not being fluent in our language, he was honest but was accepted by the voting Navajo public. But when you really talk with him or listen to him, none of this fluency matters. I had the chance to do both at Teesto Chapter a couple of months ago.

At that forum I heard from all our five potential Council delegate candidates and Chris was there with Lambert Benally. When the floor was given to him to speak, he spoke more Navajo than some of the ones running for the Council or those asking questions from the audience.

So, on Election Day I voted for him because he was the best candidate for the job. And not surprised, he was one of two to win and go into the general election. In Teesto, I told Chris and Lambert that he would be one of the two to win. Now he has done that. And again, I say to him and all who reads this paper that he will be our next president of the Navajo Nation.

Having been certified to interpret our language in tribal, state and federal courts, I have seen and heard many things about this issue. In many cases some non-Navajos speak better Navajo than we do. We have so many thousands of our people, both young and old, who can't either speak or understand our language, simply for reasons beyond their control. Some of their parents and grandparents were restricted and punished for speaking it when obtaining basic education, many times away from the reservation. Sometimes these atrocities were inflicted by our own people in authority.

By pushing this "fluency in Navajo" issue, are we indirectly telling our people "that due to your lack of being fluent in the Navajo language" you are limited to, or omitted, from serving your people in various offices or partaking in activities or of services intended for the Navajo people?

I believe we should do the contrary and embrace all our people, regardless of their fluency in Navajo, their degree of blood, their marriages and interest, and welcome them into all that the tribe offers. If we don't, wouldn't this be somewhat similar to the ethnic cleansing happening in foreign countries, a snip of what ISIS is doing in the Middle East?

The good that comes with the candidacy of Chris Deschene is that our people or anyone can start to work or improve on our use of the Navajo language. I am proud and honored to know this man is not afraid to do what he has done and will do for our many Navajo people hesitant to embark upon this great language.

Of the many obstacles in life's road, limited or lack of Navajo communication skills should not be one of them. After all, didn't Chris Deschene just prove it? Ask the 9,734 of us who voted for him.

Richard Begay Jr.
Indian Wells, Ariz.

It's not Deschene's fault he is not fluent

The article in the Sept. 11 paper regarding the presidential candidate Chris Deschene not fluent in the Navajo language brought out issues of historical trauma experienced by the Navajo people.

Historical trauma does not end with the victim, it is contagious to the next generation. The federal government's policy on assimilating indigenous Indians was carried out in the boarding school system. There was a "no speaking Navajo" rule that to this day has an impact on Navajo children and families.

Now there are many Navajos who do not speak the language fluently. Some boarding school parents did not teach their children the language because of their cultural conflict and the "forbidden language."

The impact brought trauma, shame and disconnection to their families that continue to this day. I think it behooves us as Navajo people to understand the historical trauma. Judging a Navajo who does not speak the language fluently adds to the trauma because it sends a message of non-acceptance by your own people. This creates toxic shame that destroys.

I believe that Mr. Deschene should have the opportunity to run for Navajo president. It is not his fault that he is not fluent in the language. Many Navajos are like that. It does not mean we are lesser than other fluent speaking Navajo. There is no shame for something we had not control over.

Sharon Manuelito
Window Rock, Ariz.

Tsosie's criticism of Zah disturbing

The statement that Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie made criticizing former Navajo Nation Chairman and President Peterson Zah does not sit well with me for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, Navajo culture teaches us that we should speak well of others, hozhoji yadiiltih, keeping in mind our sacred clan relations. Our grandparents taught us that speaking ill of others creates conflict among families and hardship within our communities. We should take into consideration that people have families, children who look up to them and love them. These people also have mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, and grandparents who, based on Ke', hold them dear to their hearts.

With this in mind, the statement made by Delegate Tsosie against former Chairman and President Zah is disturbing and not in keeping with our Navajo cultural teachings.

Leaders should set a good example for our communities in the way they conduct themselves and how they speak. Furthermore, leaders represent the interests of their constituents, the very people who elected them into office. In this way, we have to wonder what type of example Leonard Tsosie is setting for our children and our communities when he defames and attacks Peterson Zah.

And as a Navajo public representative to both the Navajo Nation Council and the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company, Mr. Tsosie's statement against Peterson Zah may not reflect the opinion of his constituents who may respect and hold Mr. Zah in high regards. Mr. Tsosie would be more considerate and respectful of the people he represents if he stated that his unfavorable opinions of Mr. Zah were his own and not those of the people he represents.

Additionally, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that Paul Frye was given an honorary census number. Despite the work that Mr. Frye has done for the Navajo Nation, the Navajo census number is a unique identification that the federal government established for enrollment within the Navajo Tribe. The census number is also used to receive tribal services and to participate in tribal government elections. Symbolically, the census number represents the unimaginable hardship that our Navajo people have gone through during the Long Walk to Fort Sumner.

My late grandfather, Chee Dodge, was 4 years old when he was marched along with his mother and aunt (his mother died on the march) to Fort Sumner, and he returned to Navajo land with his aunt in 1868. The stories he shared with me in the 1930s and 1940s, before his death, of his experience in Fort Sumner were heartbreaking.

These are the things that I think of when I see my own Navajo census number and the census number of my children and grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

The census number is a living history and mixed blessing of who we are as enrolled Navajo tribal members. It should not be arbitrarily given away to non-Navajo people, especially in any honorific manner.

How Mr. Tsosie uses Mr. Frye's honorary census number as a supporting argument for Mr. Frye's legal and public relations services for the Navajo Oil and Gas Company, like his statement against Peterson Zah, is puzzling and disgraceful.

Irma Bluehouse
Ganado, Ariz.

Oil & gas co. needs a new qualified board

The Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company needs a new qualified board of directors because it is a multi-million dollar corporation that our Navajo Nation depends on.

Attorneys are like magicians; they use arguments (illusions) to distract people from focusing on what is really occurring. NNOGC's attorney, Paul Frye, along with Louis Denetsosie (interim CEO), and some of the NNOGC Board of Directors -- Deandra Benally, Lennard Eltsosie, Mae Gilene Begay, Jennifer Hatathlie, Nelson Toledo, and Young Jeff Tom -- will have you believe that the NNOGC's charter amendments shouldn't be ratified for numerous unsupported reasons.

These people don't want the public to know that: (1) They don't know anything about the oil and gas industry; (2) They replaced Louis Denetsosie as CEO and caused all of the problems NNOGC is currently experiencing; (3) They are serving on expired terms with the exception of one; (4) They are using NNOGC resources to gain public support spending thousands of dollars for one-page ads or hiring George Arthur, Clinton Jim, Manuel Morgan (former NNOGC board member), Ivan Gamble, and others to convince the Navajo Nation Council to not ratify the charter.

Some may ask, what is the solution to this problem? It's very simple. The Navajo Nation Council needs to ratify the NNOGC charter amendments. By taking that action, the new charter will mandate by law that a qualified board of directors will lead NNOGC.

The charter amendments went through extensive tribal and federal legal review. The Department of the Interior approved the charter amendments, which are currently at Navajo Nation Council, which scars these people because they will no longer be eligible to serve on the NNOGC Board of Directors.

Don't get fooled by the distraction. You should be suspicious when politicians like Leonard Tsosie on one hand demands for NHA's board to be replaced because of expired terms, but then defends NNOGC's board whose terms have expired. One can only conclude that Tsosie must have some personal interest or vendetta to fulfill -- just look at the URI issue.

Please tell your Navajo Nation Council delegate to ratify (make officially valid) the NNOGC charter amendments. Call the Navajo Nation Council at 928-871-7160 and leave a message for your delegate.

Unfortunately, our Navajo Nation legislators don't provide other contract information to the general public like our state and congressional representatives do.

Spencer W. Willie
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

For me, a fresh set of ideas

The old and new, Shirley and Deschene. These are our choices.

As for me I choose Deschene. We need a fresh set of ideas and a different way of doing things. With his military background, hopefully he runs a transparent government where everyone is held accountable for their actions and held to a higher standard. No more expensive rings, trips to Las Vegas, golf balls, embezzling money and not paying it back, or giving money to relatives and girlfriends, boyfriends, etc.

Now that we have more courts, build a tent city on the rez and stop the revolving jail door. Break the law, do some hard time.

Get rid of government dead weight if they're not doing their job. Retire them or fire them and replace them with some young blood.

Keep a close eye on the chapters and how they spend their money, and make them transparent to the people.

Elmer Nez
Phoenix, Ariz.

Miss To'Hajiilee is honored, happy

Hello, my name is Erica Nelson. I am currently Miss To'Hajiilee 2014-15. Words can't describe how honored and happy I am to be representing my beloved home and people.

My hobbies are playing sports and spending quality time with my family. I am on the varsity volleyball team at To'Hajiilee Community School.

My goal as Miss To'Hajiilee is to ensure our cultural awareness and language among our Navajo people.

Erica Nelson
To'Hajiilee, N.M.

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