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50 Years Ago: ‘Do not litter’ bumper sticker checked for secret code

Chicago city police this week could really have made use of a Navajo Code Talker.

The Associated Press reported that Chicago police had picked up a young hippy and began questioning him about a bumper sticker on his vehicle. They thought the sticker was some kind of code the hippies in that area were beginning to use to signify an upcoming protest or something.

It turns out police were keeping close tabs on the hippy population ever since the protests that occurred during the Democratic Party nominating session the previous summer so anything out of the ordinary was cause for an investigation.

In this case, it was the strange words on the bumper sticker that no one had seen before. The words were “Ts’iilzéí Doo’da.”

According to the AP story, Chicago police were a little concerned that this may be some kind of secret code. But when they questioned the man they picked up, they learned that the words were Navajo and meant “do not litter.”

It seems that the young fellow in his journeys spent a little time on the Navajo Reservation and picked up the bumper sticker which was being distributed by the Navajo Tribal Museum as part of a summer anti-littering campaign.

In reservation news, Navajo Tribal Chairman Raymond Nakai said tribal attorneys were making the final touches on a major land purchase in the Eastern Navajo Agency in order to make sure some 27,000 Navajos would not find themselves forced to move from their homelands.

The land purchase involves some 247,000 acres of public domain land that the federal government says it is willing to turn over to the tribe for $3 million. The tribe has asked and feds have approved a plan for the tribe to pay for it over three years.

The land in question is located south of Gallup in the area of Breadsprings and to the west near Manuelito. It also includes land around Casamero Lake and Littlewater south of Crownpoint.

Wilson Skeet, the Council delegate from Two Wells, said the land purchase would connect all major areas of Navajo occupation in the Eastern Navajo Agency.

The land purchase was generally looked upon as a good deal for the tribe, especially at that price but there was some opposition from a couple of members of the Council who argued against it, saying the tribe would have no problem justifying the transfer of the land to the tribe for no price since the Navajos can prove they have lived in the land for more than 100 years.

That, however, would require the tribe to go to federal court and that could take decades and millions of dollars to litigate so tribal officials decided this was the best route to take. In November, the Council agreed and voted 48-0 to buy the land.

Nakai also pointed out that there was a bill going through Congress that, if approved, would add another 70,000 acres of public domain land in the Eastern Agency to Navajo ownership.
Speaking of littering, Perry Allen, the tribe’s chief prosecutor, said Navajo Police will start strictly enforcing anti-littering laws.

This means that anyone who is found illegally dumping trash or even throwing a bottle to the side of the road could face a $100 fine and up to a month in tribal jail. Tribal judges also have the right to force people convicted of throwing trash along the roadside to as much as 100 hours of community service picking up trash along the sides of the road.

Perry estimates that reservation residents dumped more than 100 tons of trash in arroyos and ditches a year because they are too lazy to dispose of it properly.

“This has got to stop,” he said. “We need to walk in beauty in all aspects of our life.”

He said the crackdown will also include car wrecks.

Whoever gets the job of towing the cars away will also be responsible for picking up broken glass and anything else that falls off or from the cars.

These laws have been on the books for more than a decade but Perry admits that they are seldom enforced mainly because it has been a low priority. That’s no longer the case.

He said he is even considering having police officers go through the trash that has been illegally dumped to see if they can determine through letters or anything else who dumped them.
The tribe could go after them and force the litterers to pick it up.

A report issued this week by the tribe’s tourism office shows that a lot of foreigners still love spending part of their summer vacation visiting the Navajo Reservation.

Surveys done by the state of Arizona and the tribe indicated that the country most represented this past summer was Japan. More than 18,000 spent at least a day on the reservation.

This was followed by Germany with 12,200 and then people from England and Scotland at 8,100.

The biggest draw by far was Monument Valley with Canyon de Chelly coming in second followed by the Four Corners Monument and Hubbell’s Trading Post.

Some 42 percent of those who visited the reservation said they had been here before and more than 91 percent said they had such a pleasant experience that they would like to come again.
The state estimated that the foreign visitors spent more than $6 million during their visit but the vast majority of that was off reservation for motels and dining.



About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.