STANDING ROCK, N.M. -- It was April 28, 1959, when Standing Rock Chapter President Pahe Greyhat wrote to Navajo Tribal Chairman Paul Jones to seek funds to renovate the old chapter house here.
The problem was that the original chapter house had been constructed on rock --an excellent foundation but one unsuitable to install modern features like water lines and sewer lines.
Also signing the 1959 letter was then-Vice President Frank Willeto and Chapter Secretary Tom C. Shorty. On Jan. 7, a copy of that correspondence--a fragile, tissue-thin letter kept safe in a clear plastic sleeve--found its way back to the chapter here as 150 Standing Rock residents celebrated the renovation of the chapter house those long-ago officials sought to build.
Among those here to witness its delivery were the children and grandchildren of those chapter government pioneers--now grayer than that 46-year-old letter.
Roland Ellsworth Jr., who was raised here but has lived in Ramah for nearly 30 years, said his mother gave him a suitcase full of documents that belonged to his late father Jay Ellsworth, who was a chapter official.
"I believe that in order to have strong local government, they need an archive, they need their history," he said.
Ellsworth said he heard that Standing Rock was holding a dedication for the recent renovation of the chapter house and he knew he had documents he wanted to present as the start of the chapter's archives.
"I was born and raised in Standing Rock," Ellsworth said. "I started school with (former Chapter President) Clinton Jim, who is now a staff assistant to Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. He accompanied his grandfather, who was a tribal judge, and traveled with him, just like I did with my dad. My family and my ranch are at Ramah but Standing Rock is always home."
Chapter Coordinator Rosita L. Smith, who had made the renovation one of her priorities, said it was completed with $190,000 from the Navajo Nation Abandoned Mine Lands Office and $100,000 from the New Mexico Office of Indian Affairs. The work entirely replaced the interior of the chapter house and now shows off a blonde oak mantle around the original fireplace.
Attending the dedication with President Joe Shirley was Navajo Nation Council Speaker Lawrence Morgan, N.M. State Sen. Leonard Tsosie, Chapter President Johnny Johnson, and Council Delegates Harry Hubbard and Young Jeff Tom.
In the President's report, he reminded the people to always keep Navajo soldiers and veterans in their thoughts and prayers. He noted that 14 American soldiers had been killed on Thursday in Iraq.
"Freedom comes at price," Pres. Shirley said. "They died for our freedom. They died for our way of life. So we must always remember our soldiers."
The President also reported that despite the loss of millions of dollars in tribal revenue because of the closure of the Black Mesa Mine, the Navajo Nation is positioned to make up that revenue through the planned opening of at least two casinos this year, participation in a theme park planned for Williams and the development of the Desert Rock Power Plant which will use clean coal technology.
(George Hardeen is Navajo Nation Communications Director.)
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