A farewell message from Coconino County District 5 Supervisor, Louise Yellowman

Yá'át'èèh. Shi kee' døø Shi'kis (relatives and friends), I am of the Tsénahabiłnii clan (With Rock People), Born-for-the-English-People. But I was raised by Tábaahí, Edgewater clan. My maternal grandfather is Deeshchii'nii-Start of the Red Streak People clan, and my paternal grandfather is of the Honágháanii-One Walks Around clan.

As you know, I am originally from Lupton, Arizona, and my husband, Frank G. Yellowman is from Cedar Ridge area. Along with my five children, grandchildren and I lived in Tuba City for more than 40 years.

Recently, I have made a decision that has been very hard to make and today I am sharing this with you. There is a saying that timing is everything. And throughout my life and especially throughout my work for you as a supervisor on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors this has been so true.

I have decided to retire and not to run again for the Coconino County Board of Supervisors. Now is the right time. It was a very hard decision because I am so proud and honored to serve you.

I was elected 27 years ago on Jan. 1, 1980, and during all my political life, all my meetings, all my hard work, my husband Frank helped me and my children; they all helped me: my husband always made sure I was safe. He maintained my car to make sure it was safe to drive. And he took care of our home and our children. Anytime I went to work I knew our children and our home were okay. Together we raised five children.

But now my husband needs my help. Now is the right time. Now I need to spend time with my husband, my home and my family. Therefore I will not run for re-election.

Being a Diné woman, I have always looked to the guidance and teaching of White Shell and Changing Woman. In my life journey, from early age to adult, I have applied the standards and expectations set by White Shell woman and taught to me by my grandmother. I have applied the Diné philosophies that emphasize living a holistic life, of being in harmony and balance on the Corn Pollen Path. I blend this also with the Holy Path of the Catholic and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

And so it is with all these teachings, all the prayers and songs from the Holy People I learned - with all this I have served you, and with these prayers and songs I now leave you.

When I got elected as supervisor, I was faced with many papers and requests falling on me like snow. I said "Now what?" I began to realize that as a board member you have a lot of roles, a lot of responsibility; that you are actually in charge of budget, revenue and expenditure for the county. Most of the money comes from sales taxes and property taxes. However, because there was a misconception that Navajos and other Native Americans do not pay taxes, when I came into office, there had been a tendency for the state and county policy to exclude Native American reservations from the county budget. Coconino County includes six Native American tribes: Navajo, Hopi, Paiute, Havasupai, Apache, and Walapai; Navajo, Hopi, and Paiute are in my district, so as a Supervisor for the County I have had to work under duress and turn 360 degrees to find money for our Native Americans who live in the county.

I felt that as a Diné woman I should be a strong voice for Native Americans in the county who had never had a voice in the county and in the state. In northern Arizona I took a lot of heat for supporting general fund money for Native Americans. People were not fully informed about how Native Americans in the county were involved in the process. People were not aware that Native Americans do pay taxes. In 1992, Paul Babbitt came to my rescue and said, "Native Americans pay sales tax." This meant we had to raise the sales tax a half a cent so that some money could go to Native American reservations in the county.

But not all of people in my district were happy about raising the sales tax a half a cent for Coconino County. In 1992, some threatened to recall me if I pushed for the sales tax.

But we had to do it and also had to educate the people about where the half a cent would go. Those places where I went, people were upset with me as the only Native American leader in the county, and they accused me of representation without taxation. Fortunately, Paul Babbitt and the Coconino County Board shielded me from the anger directed at me.

We agreed on some amounts for county buildings in Page, and various important projects. This is how we got the transfer stations, we got a portion of the money for reservation roads, some money from county for the Rare Metals cleanup, and for bringing the Department of Motor Vehicles to Tuba City, opened the Tuba City Coconino County branch office and I also got voter registration in my Tuba City office. Also, through this office I managed to start the Navajo Hopi Observer newspaper to bring news to my constituents regarding concerns and issues pertaining to them.

This has been a challenge for Native Americans and for us as Diné because of the changes to our language and culture through boarding schools and interactions with white culture. When I was a child, many Diné children were being taken away from their families and raised in white homes. Children were being shipped off the reservation to far-away schools. This happened to a lot of our Diné children and it was hard for many of them to recover. It was in this time of turmoil that I was born. My father was a white man, and so my Diné mother, grandmother and grandfather had to hide me so that I could be raised at home as Diné. So I grew up knowing that there were two cultures fighting for me, and I suppose this is what has encouraged me to seek two-way communication.

Thank you very much for supporting me all these years. By 2009 when the new supervisor is sworn in, my work with you will have been more then 28 years. In working with you I tried to bring positive things to our communities. It was within me to serve you and the whole county. All this time I have worked to build partnerships with people, county managers and staff, and we always were able to come to some agreements. Even today we still trying to do that and will until my office ends. But now we also have to think about the future, to continue growing. My hope is that what you and I have established in the county will continue to grow.

Hagoo ònee and thank you.

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