Letter to the editor: Escalade project would exploit Navajo Nation resources and culture

To the editor:

Yah’ah’teh’ my name is Don Yellowman, I am Dine' and long-time advocate for social, environmental and economic justice for my people. I am a community and voting member of the Bodaway Gap Chapter. I grew up at the Gap and my ancestors traditionally herded their sheep in Cedar Ridge, a community along the eastern Rim of the Grand Canyon within the Bodaway Gap Chapter boundaries. Growing up in the Bennett Freeze, I often wondered why we lived in third-world living conditions with no electricity or running water, while the border towns surrounding our reservation were prospering.

I contend that the past and current chapter leadership and council delegates have been deliberately obstructing any projects because it conflicted with their promoting of the Escalade project; even though the community twice voted against the proposed project in previous resolutions.

It’s important the public know that the chapter leadership under the guidance of former President (Ben) Shelly’s directive to staff advance a subsequent Resolution BA-09-092-12 reversing the two opposing resolutions and approving the proposed Escalade Project Oct. 3, 2012. This action was nothing less than an illegal vote now being touted by the Confluence Partners LLC and the Navajo Nation.

I am known to be opposed to the Escalade project because it does nothing to advance the protection and preservation of our people with respect to our culture and traditional Dine' life-ways. The proposed project will only further exploit our people, lands and culture under the guise of promoting economic opportunities as a solution for beginning our rehabilitation. I support economic advancements that empower our people to develop community-based capacities required to rehabilitate our lives, homes and homelands. I believe that the people impacted by the Bennett Freeze deserve their voice be heard and respected when developing rehabilitation plans and not be forced to accept a project that does nothing to promote self-determination and self-governance.

I grew up learning about our scared lands from my elders and our traditional holy ways for protecting our homeland and culture from those who would have us disappear. Our people have suffered many generations following the Long Walk, Boarding Schools, Live Stock Reduction, Bennett Freeze, Forced Relocation, and a Judicial System that by design disenfranchise and marginalize the Dine’ Life Ways by supporting the dominate society’s continued exploitation for our natural resources.

Our ancestors died for our rights and negotiated treaties that were ratified by Congress to protect our way of life, land and resources for future generations. As Dine' and as Holy People we have an obligation to continue to fight for our rights to self-govern, but too often our leaders are sell-outs motivated by greed, insisting on the reliance of outsiders to act and speak on our behalf. I understand the first priority of the Navajo Nation is to ensure its own bottom line as a corporation but, as I see it, they should be empowering their people not competing with their people. It would be in the best interest of all to streamline and remove all obstacles for establishing independent businesses that support social and economic opportunities for Dine' to be independent and prosper.

We must stop and assess our individual and collective acts/actions that promote the continued assault of our motherlands, traditions and cultures. I am running for president for Bodaway Gap Chapter to stop people who have been preying on our weak minded, selling them lies and or bribing them to act on their behalf for personal, professional and or monetary gain.

I understand systemic structural violence as a tactic of the oppressor to prey upon the uneducated minds of our leadership. I believe cognitive dissonance is the by-product of the oppressed and underscores indoctrination and assimilation into the dominant society’s values and belief systems of Profit Over People. Trust, that neo-liberalism and neo-institutional models are well-devised mechanisms to blind us and move us away from Hozho’.

If we are to thrive into the future as Dine' we must remember and honor our Indigenous Life-Ways. In closing, I support my indigenous brothers and sisters in North Dakota and elsewhere who are on the front lines defending our Mother Lands and rights to potable water for all future generations.

If elected president, my goal will be to empower my people with jobs that support stopping the exploitation of our resources and culture. I support the Navajo Nation moving away from dirty energy production that’s contributing to our humanity’s demise and begin exploring opportunities for alternative renewable energy sources that won’t further contaminate our people’s water, air and land.

My community of Cedar Ridge is hosting a presidential rally for me. I want to hear from you as we advance a more just, accountable, transparent and inclusive Bodaway Gap local government. Join me Saturday, Oct. 29 between 1-5 p.m. Our tent will be set-up on the east side of Hwy 89 next to chapter warehouse.

Ahe’hee’,

Don Yellowman, Cedar Ridge, Arizona

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