Winslow appoints Native American liaison to coordinate with tribal government

Navajo Nation leaders and tribal members with important projects and ideas are encouraged to contact the new Native American liaison appointed by City Council to explore potential partnerships between

Navajo Nation leaders and tribal members with important projects and ideas are encouraged to contact the new Native American liaison appointed by City Council to explore potential partnerships between the two communities.

In an effort to maintain better communication between the Winslow City government and the Navajo Nation, the city of Winslow initiated a volunteer Native American liaison position for tribal members living within the city.

Chosen to represent the Navajo people, is Mona Seamon, who currently works as the Diabetes Program Assistant at the Winslow Indian Health Care Center.

Her clan is Ta'nezahnii, born for Bitahnii. Naakaii Dine' are her maternal grandparents and Dzil tl'ahnii are her paternal grandparents.

She was born on the Navajo Nation in Ft. Defiance and grew up in Teesto and was relocated to Winslow in 1984 under the Navajo/Hopi Relocation Program. Seamon graduated Winslow High School in 1988, moved to Phoenix, then to Ithaca, N.Y. where she worked at the Cornell University American Indian Program. She moved back to Winslow with her three children in 2001 because she missed the wide-open spaces of her home here.

Back in New York, Seamon said she noticed that many people on the East Coast come from well established families who have generations who go to college; whereas out here in Arizona, many tribal members are barely getting into college for the first time.

"It is my goal to see more Native Americans out here have the opportunity to go to college," she said.

Winslow City Administrator Jim Ferguson and Seamon have already met to discuss their interpretations of what each felt was needed and that the position should be responsible for how it could work best for all.

A Native American Liaison serves as an advocate, resource, and communication link between the city of Winslow leaders and Navajo Nation leaders on the reservation. The liaison can also be the contact for members of the tribe on the reservation and in Winslow to discuss issues and concerns to be brought before community leaders.

Typically there have been many problems in the past with communication between the tribe and communities bordering the reservation because of the lack of formal responsibility on both sides.

In the past, communication on Native American issues started only to end up with little or no follow-up, she said.

"I already have contact with many Navajo Nation leaders about upcoming meetings and issues," Seamon said. "I intend to keep constant communication with both parties."

Some of her goals as liaison will be to involve more Native Americans in issues of importance. She said the detox center is a good example of something that should have been discussed between Winslow and the Navajo people.

"Most importantly, I would like to bring a mobile polling place into Winslow for the Navajos to vote in the Navajo Nation elections," she said. "This would increase participation because many are not be able to afford to drive out to the reservation or able to get the time off of work to get out there and vote."

Seamon has already been doing outreach between the tribe and Winslow residents on her own well before the liaison position was conceived. Seamon is the vice chair of the Indian Education Committee and a member of the Southwest Dine' Educators and Community Supporters, whose purpose is to bring awareness on issues to the Native American community in Winslow, and to bring awareness about Native American culture to non-native residents in Winslow and in surrounding areas.

"Mayor Allan Affeldt has been extremely helpful in referring us to a national radio reporter from NPR who is now working with us for a series which will air in November called, 'Edge of the Rez,'" she said.

Seamon said the mayor also referred a PBS KAET Channel 8 documentary filmmaker to her to collaborate on information regarding the Winslow area history and the Hubbell Trading Post.

She said another one of her main objectives with this position is to promote local Native American culture in the area and especially tribal economic development.

"When people come through Winslow from around the country or around the world, we want them to be exposed to more Native American culture and history than is being highlighted currently," she said.

Another issue Seamon plans on addressing will be working with the Navajo Nation to look at developing property it owns in Winslow, and coming up with ideas for properties outside of town like the Rincon Ranch which was recently purchased by the tribe.

Out near the Rincon Basin, the county never finished paving Highway N-71 to the Birdsprings community. She said this is discourages some Birdsprings community members from going into Winslow for their errands and shopping; whereby, they go the other route to Flagstaff instead.

Seamon said she is confident in her position being successful for both communities.

"Due to my involvement with the Navajo Nation, I have a direct line of communication to the desk of the Navajo Nation president and plan to be more effective because of it," she said.

"I would also like to thank Mayor Affeldt, Ferguson and the Winslow City Council for having an open mind and allowing me to have this opportunity," Seamon said. "This is something that has never happened before and it will help bridge the gap between our communities. It is about time."

"We need to make sure that Native Americans feel more welcome in Winslow," she said.

Until the city of Winslow establishes a formal contact for the Native American Liaison Mona Seamon, those interested in speaking with her, may call the city of Winslow and leave message for her there at (928) 289 ­ 2422.

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