Urges Diné to seize opportunity
Am I dreaming, am I hallucinating or what?
I can’t sleep, something is amiss, and when I am fully awake, this feeling of impending disaster is still on my mind. It seems the Navajo Nation is afloat with no rudder or no oars. It seems we are drifting with no direction, no purpose.
Am I alone in this feeling? For the past 20 or 25 years, I have not heard a Navajo leader or politician that speaks with a vision, a purpose or a sense of where we are and where we are going.
I hope I am not just under an illusion that everything is OK, but I sense we are not doing anything right now. Now we must get into action.
Our political leaders have put us to sleep with empty rhetoric, empty promises and with a bunch of nonsense. We don’t have the luxury of not doing something to regain the control of our destiny, to shape our future, to strive and flourish.
To me, it seems like we stopped striving since 1983 and put ourselves to sleep since 1989. We need to wake up. The sheep are scattered all over the countryside; the horses have gone wild. We need to look for them.
On Feb. 5, I went to Tsaile to listen to an elderly leader [Peter MacDonald] speak. It ignited something in me, and I envisioned many opportunities for our people.
Did you know that our present leaders are negotiating our water rights away? We must stop them and focus our energy into putting our water to use—developing pasture lands, developing farmlands to make our arid land productive again using our water.
As Governor Bruce Babbitt once said to me as we flew over Indian Wells on our way to Window Rock, “Look at all that land down there. Just add water to it and you got a gold mine.”
Our empty land can also be converted to energy farms—solar wind power so that we have renewable energy to sell to our power hungry neighbors and light up every hogan. It’s exciting! Wake up!
Yes, there are opportunities out there. Let us awake, shake the blankets go to work for our future right now.
Stresses water’s vital role to Diné
In depth of our four cardinal directions, the main source of life are the four elements earth, fire, air and water.
The element water was set in a pair, a female and male rivers, to our Diné Mythology. In 1976, the San Juan, Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers were recognized as spiritual regions under Native American Freedom of Religion Act. Today, two of these rivers on our Navajo land are in question.
President Jimmy Carter on Aug. 11, 1978, signed into law the Native American Freedom of Religion Act to see if it had any more meaning than the hundreds of other agreements with the Indians that the federal government ignored.
It states, “That henceforth it shall be the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent rights of freedom to believe, express and exercise…traditional religions…including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.”
In the late 1950s, a land exchange took place between Utah and Arizona. Our Navajo Tribal Council, at that time, knew the Little Colorado River was sacred to our Diné and went ahead and exchanged what today is Page, Ariz., for a parcel of land in Utah. The land along the Little Colorado River, as the river itself, has always been sacred to Diné.
Glen Canyon Dam was built in 1963 where the federal government failed to defend the rights of Diné. But this was before the Native American Freedom of Religion Act was enacted.
As of today, Page is still growing. Lately, there is talk about plans for a prison to be built in Page. Are we so ignorant—what we always conceived as evil being built in the midst of us? Solely, between what is sacred to the Little Colorado River, our Diné homeland and us?
In the Feb. 4 issue of the Navajo-Hopi Observer, an interesting viewpoint by District 5 Coconino County Board of Supervisor Louise Yellowman was published. If the federal government acknowledges the Native American Religions Freedom Act of1978, why doesn’t the Navajo Tribal Council deny meeting with the Diné Sovereign Defense Association for Water Rights?
The Navajo Nation covers Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. This is a body of people that do not know Indians and non-Indians of New Mexico are getting equitable distribution of water from San Juan river and the other three states not.
And then, why does the Navajo Tribal Council fail to meet with each chapter house in all agencies, advising them of what is occurring between the Navajo Tribe and New Mexico? It seems Arizona has more Diné. For the livelihood of Diné residing in the Navajo Western Agency, most windmills broken haven’t been repaired. Navajo Tribal Council ignores their chapter houses. Why pursue helping a state?
Within the Four Sacred Mountains entwined with the Four Cardinal Directions, sacred rivers bound us. Water is the bottom of all of our ceremonies whether we are traditional Native American Church or even Christian.
We should not play with what gives life—water along with the other three elements air, fire and earth. The four elements revive life through the four seasons.