Tag Archives: Navajo Times

11/19/2011 Navajo Times: Top doc Diné medical doctor hired to develop 10-year wellness plan

11/19/2011 Navajo Times: Top doc Diné medical doctor hired to develop 10-year wellness plan By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times: The Navajo Nation once again has a top doctor. Dr. Gayle Diné Chacon reported for duty as the medical adviser and chief medical officer to the Division of Health, where she will help the tribe develop long-term strategies to restore the people to good health. She will provide guidance to President Ben Shelly as he seeks to fulfill a campaign promise to develop a 10-year wellness plan to alleviate some of the most chronic problems on the reservation, including diabetes and alcoholism, and make everyone healthier.

Hers is a position that was held before by only one person – the late Dr. Taylor McKenzie.

McKenzie, the first Navajo to earn a medical degree, was appointed the tribe’s chief medical officer in 2006 and served in that capacity until his death on April 13, 2007. The position has been unfilled since then, primarily because the tribe was never able to find a Navajo physician willing to accept the job.

“I was offered the job several years ago,” said Chacon, but she was then serving as director of the Center for Native American Health, an organization she helped create at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She is currently on sabbatical from that position.

Chacon is Todich’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for Kiyaa’aanii (Towering House Clan). Her chei is Tachii’nii (Red Running into Water Clan) and her paternal grandfather’s clan is Kinlichii’nii (Red House).

Born and raised in Chinle, she knew from an early age that she wanted to do something with science, inspired by a book her father, Frank Dinéyazhe, brought home when she was 5 or 6 years old.

Her father, who is now retired, worked for the BIA and one of his duties was to burn discarded equipment. But when the load contained books, she said, he couldn’t bring himself to burn them so he would bring them home for his children to read.

11/14/2011 Navajo Times: 5-year uranium cleanup only the beginning

11/14/2011 Navajo Times: 5-year uranium cleanup only the beginning By Alastair Lee Bitsoi” Farmington – More than 100 people gathered here Tuesday (Nov. 8) to hear updates from federal officials on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s five-year multi-agency plan to address the health and environmental impacts of uranium development on the Navajo Nation. Called the Navajo Uranium Contamination Stakeholder Workshop, it is a three-day summit held to update tribal officials and impacted Navajo community members on the progress of the plan, which is nearing completion.

Jared Blumenfeld, administrator for EPA Region 9, said the plan has been effective, as demonstrated by the large-scale cleanup at the Skyline Mine in Monument Valley, Utah.

“This is an incredibly effective return on the dollar,” Blumenfeld said. “It brings in jobs and cleanup from the Cold War.”

In addition to the cleanup at Monument Valley, Blumenfeld said both USEPA and the Navajo Nation EPA have screened 683 structures for contamination, completing the demolition and excavation of 34 structures and 12 residential yards. They also rebuilt 14 homes, he said.

Over the summer, USEPA also announced that it would begin cleanup operations at the largest abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation – the Northeast Church Rock Mine – and investigate possible soil contamination at the former Gulf Mineral Mine in Mariano Lake, N.M.

Also involved in the five-year cleanup are the Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, IHS, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and U.S. Department of Energy, all of which provided updates on their progress.

Their accomplishments include sampling 250 unregulated water sources, identifying and marking 28 that exceed federal drinking water standards for radiation, and funding $20 million worth of water projects to supply up to 386 homes that lack piped drinking water.

Also of importance is the CDC-funded Navajo Birth Cohort Study, which is being conducted by the University of New Mexico.

The three-year study will look at pregnancy outcomes and child development in relation to uranium exposure among Navajo women and infants.

Journal of Folklore Research An International Journal of Folklore and Ethnomusicology-Bitter Water: Diné Oral Histories of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute

Journal of Folklore Research An International Journal of Folklore and Ethnomusicology – Bitter Water: Diné Oral Histories of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Edited by Malcolm D. Benally. 2011. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 102 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8165-2898-1 (soft cover).  Reviewed by Charlotte Frisbie, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville: [Review length: 1732 words • Review posted on November 9, 2011]  This extremely important volume makes numerous contributions: for the first time, it presents in both Navajo and English, oral histories or personal narratives of four women from the Black Mesa area, Arizona, women living within and near the HPL or Hopi Partitioned Land area who were/are directly involved in activism opposing the 1974 so-called Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Act, or PL 93-531.

The women and their home communities include: Mae Tso, Mosquito Springs; Roberta Blackgoat (who died in 2000), Thin Rock Mesa; Pauline Whitesinger, Big Mountain; and Ruth Benally, a distant relative of Benally’s, also from Big Mountain. While there are important academic studies of the dispute, the 1974 law authorizing the partition of Navajo and Hopi lands, and its resulting disasters—such as works by Brugge, Churchill, Kammer, and Redhouse, besides a 1993 popular book by Benedek, a 1986 movie, “Broken Rainbow,” and the Pulitzer prize-winning investigative article, “The Black Mesa Syndrome: Indian Lands, Indian Gold,” by Judith Nies (Orion, summer, 1998)—until this publication, we lacked testimonies and in-depth perspectives from Navajos living in the affected area. Malcolm Benally, a Navajo from Forest Lake, was the ideal person to pursue this project, having been born three years before the 1974 act and raised in Forest Lake, another community on partitioned land. During college at Northern Arizona University, in 1994 he began to work with Into the Mud Productions. When they received a grant in October, 1998, from a fund aimed at raising public consciousness about human rights abuses and restrictions of civil liberties, Benally was hired to work with Mary Fish, the producer and photographer, to produce a sixty-minute documentary, Bitter Water: Diné Chronicles of Resistance.

Thus, in the late 1990s, he videorecorded, using a digital audiotape and Hi-8 documentary video camera, over twenty-five hours of personal testimonies and oral histories from Navajo elders affected by the partition of Navajo and Hopi Lands. The plan was to produce the documentary from the interview footage and thus tell the world about the cultural genocide and human rights violations continually occurring in Arizona because of PL 93-53. However, once the interviews were completed, the funding disappeared, technology changed, and digital format arrived. Wanting to share the women’s stories, educate the public about the unnecessary pain, trauma, and suffering continually being caused by relocation, and call international attention to the gross violation of human rights that continues because of this law, yes, in the United States and in Arizona, Benally finally decided to release some of the narratives in book format. He still plans to complete the documentary, his “work in progress,” and he still has misgivings about print format because most of the project’s participants are elderly, monolingual Navajos and most have already had too many horrendous experiences with documents.

After deciding to move ahead in print, Benally first transcribed the audio track, writing the women’s narratives in literal Navajo; then he did numerous re-listenings to find a way of translating their words that would catch their eloquent ways of speaking and expressing themselves. Anyone familiar with the challenges of doing translations will understand his labors of love during this process. Among the contributions made by this volume is the bilingual presentation of all four monologues as well as the section entitled “Sheep is Life.” The content offers a very current look at oral traditions among Navajos, and how the language itself is being used in the contemporary world. Word choices, and ways of speaking and telling stories are only two of the countless elements that will be of interest to linguists and folklorists in this volume; happily, the formatting facilitates comparisons of the spoken Navajo and English translations, and endnotes occasionally offer additional insights about specific words, phrases, translation issues, and/or multiple interpretations. Additionally, perhaps because of ethnopoetics, Benally occasionally uses italics to show what a speaker was emphasizing, or indicates with parentheses that a statement was accompanied by a smile or laugh. Through the women’s personal testimonies, one feels the deep pain and trauma caused by relocation, the prevailing sense of loss—loss of land, animals, family and friends, language, culture, traditions, and the old ways. But simultaneously, one also senses the bravery, strength, and courage expressed daily by these women and their families as they try to deal with the shameful forced removal, relocation, and cultural genocide caused by this misguided legislation.

The volume opens with a contextualizing foreword by Navajo historian, Jennifer Nez Denetdale; Benally’s preface, which explains particulars of the publication, is followed by a chronology of the shameful relocation process with its expired deadlines, governmental and legal maneuvers, the 4/18/2001 Supreme Court dismissal of the class-action lawsuit, Manybeads et al. v. United States, and the continuing horrors. The English text of “The Travel Song” as sung by Carol Blackhorse, Benally’s grandmother, follows, preceding the author’s introduction, which includes a needed map, and the first two of the volume’s stunning twenty-one black and white photographs by Mary Fish. Chapters 1–4 present the four personal testimonies first in Navajo and then in English, with photographs positioned only in the English-language sections, except for one on page 8.

Roberta Blackgoat’s narrative is followed by a reprint of a biographical note (37-38) written for the Navajo Times (4/25/2002) by reporter Marley Shebala after Blackgoat’s passing. A section entitled “Sheep is Life” (Chapter 5, pages 62-83) follows the four narratives, again in both Navajo and English, being constructed from vignettes provided by nine individuals, eight women and one man: Carol Blackhorse, Emma Bahe, and Katherine Smith provide multiple vignettes, while single contributions are quoted from Oscar Whitehair, Maize Begay, Mary Lou Benale, Elvira Horseherder, Pauline Whitesinger, and Manygoats Daughter. While photographs of only four of these nine individuals are included in this section, again in the English translation portions, traditional life on the land with the sheep is thoroughly documented by Fish’s outstanding pictures; the chapter or community residence of each contributor is identified in the endnotes. A poem, “The Mutton Hunger,” by the author, follows “Sheep is Life,” and then, in an epilogue, Benally updates events through the summer of 2010, identifying nonprofit advocacy groups and a new lawsuit. The website for the Black Mesa Indigenous Support group which provides current information about the people who remain on the HPL, was given earlier, in the preface (xv) as www.blackmesais.org.

A very important essay, “Natural Law and Navajo Religion/Way of Life,” coauthored by Roman Bitsuie and Kenja Hassan, follows as an appendix, and predictably precedes endnotes, bibliography, and an index. Bitsuie, the executive director of the Navajo Hopi Land Commission Office, reportedly gave “Natural Law . . .” as testimony on 6/20/2006 before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources during hearings on the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005; however, Benally (xvi), indicates that Hassan, a student from Japan who lived with a family in the HPL and became a friend of Bitsuie’s, also deserves coauthorship credit. I wish the entire book had been printed bilingually, so that the foreword, preface, introduction, poetry, epilogue, and this important appendix essay could have been presented in Navajo too, as were the four narratives and “Sheep is Life.”

The four narratives are individually powerful, as are their supporting photographs. While only one touches on persecution and being arrested for activism, the voices in “Sheep is Life” provide more references to confrontations with the law, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and rangers, and going to jail. Throughout the four personal histories, there is a shared tone of sadness and worry about loss, loss of everything from the old ways, the land, and the sheep, to the Navajo language, traditions, and culture. The women worry about their grandchildren and the need to teach them their history, traditions, and beliefs, their Navajo language, and traditional ways to use and care for the land. There are many references to the need for discipline in child rearing and the importance of Blessingway. Throughout the thinking about everything being gone—the animals, the people, the old ways—it is clear that most devastating is the loss of human rights.

Only a few criticisms are warranted. While it is not surprising to have different, yet correct, ways of translating a given Navajo word, there are places in the text when Navajo words and/or expressions are left untranslated, without explanation. Examples can be found on pages 14, 21, 23, 50, 51, 68. In Mae Tso’s narrative, there are two endnotes numbered 16, on pages 13 and 14 in the Navajo part, but only one number 16 on page 21, in the translation and in the endnotes on page 96. There is an extra line of space in the Navajo text on page 55, but not in the translation on page 58. Sometimes nonverbal behaviors such as smiles are indicated in one place but not in translation; likewise, the use of italics for emphasis is not always the same when comparing the Navajo and the translation. In places (see page 77 for one example) where the translation is given as “ceremony basket,” in my opinion “ceremonial basket” would have been better. Other errors: on page 10, the third note at the bottom of the page, third line, word 7 should say 1986 instead of the Navajo printed there. Page 11 includes two bottom-of-the-page notes, neither of which appears in the translation on pages 18–19. Both of these are important and should have been included. The second discusses the translation of “an endangered word,” of interest by itself but also because Benally refers to the “archaic terms” the women often used in their monologues, which he came to enjoy as a nice change from the boarding school Navajo his parents speak. One example of Navajo slang is noted, page 67. On page 35, there is a typo in line 13 from the bottom of the page. On page 97, note 7, line 2, the size of the Council needs to be changed since it has now been reduced from eighty-six to twenty-four. Two additions to the bibliography would be helpful: Judith Nies’ 1998 article mentioned above, and the article about this book done by reporter Cindy Yurth for the Navajo Times (March 3, 2011: A-7), “New Book Gives Voice to Land Dispute Victims.” Yurth’s article is based on conversations with Benally which include further information about the author, the project, and the book which then was due to emerge in May.

11/10/2011 Navajo Times: Funds available for Freeze families, panel says

11/10/2011 Navajo Times: Funds available for Freeze families, panel says By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times. WINDOW ROCK: The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission reports that it has nearly $4 million available to start helping Navajo families in the former Bennett Freeze area. “This is the latest funding for the recovery of the area,” the NHLC office stated in a recent report to the Navajo Nation Council. The money is from an escrow account. For 30 years, 1966 to 1996, Navajo families in the Bennett Freeze area were prohibited from making improvements to their homes because of federal restrictions put in place at the behest of the Hopi Tribe, which claimed prior rights to the land.

Meanwhile, land-use payments were held in escrow. In 2010, following a federal settlement lifting the Freeze, some $6.3 million was released to the Navajo Nation to benefit Navajos still residing there.

The land commission hasn’t yet approved the allocation of these funds, prompting the emergence of The Forgotten People, a grassroots group formed to demand an accounting of money spent and to push for needed improvements to the area.

The report to the Council said some $3.9 million of that $6 million has now been allocated to improve or replace dilapidated homes.

The commission also reported that lease fees from the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, which is building the Twin Arrows Resort Casino on land acquired under the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute agreement, are beginning to roll in.

Commission officials said the land had been purchased for about $7 million with the commission and the casino paying half of the cost. The land was then taken into ownership by the commission and the casino agreed to make annual payments to the commission for use of the land.

The first payment of $375,000 was made in June, said Raymond Maxx, director of the NHLC office.

10/27/2011 Navajo Times: Bogus bonuses – 2 Tuba City officials removed for scamming illegal bonuses

10/27/2011 Navajo Times: Bogus bonuses – 2 Tuba City officials removed for scamming illegal bonuses By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times: Two officials for Toh Nanees Dizi Chapter has been removed from office in the investigation into five officials accused of illegally paying themselves bonuses totaling over $80,000. Jimmy Holgate, who served on the chapter governing council, was removed on Tuesday when he failed to show up for a hearing before the Office of Hearings and Appeals. The hearing included witnesses who had traveled all of the way from Tucson. As a result of the default judgment, Holgate will have to reimburse the chapter $7,644 and cannot run for public office for five years.

Last week, Helen Herbert came to the tribe’s ethics Office and admitted she had defrauded the chapter.

She too was on the governing council. She agreed to reimburse the chapter $10,000 by paying $200 a month to the Ethics Office.

That still leaves the top three chapter officials facing hearings.

Robert Yazzie, council vice president, was scheduled to go before OHA on Oct. 20. He is accused of illegally taking $20,180.

Council President Max Goldtooth is scheduled to have a hearing Nov. 9 on charges of misappropriating $17,200.

The hearing for Secretary-Treasurer Charlene Nez, who is accused of taking $26,668, is scheduled Nov. 30.

All five are accused of giving themselves illegal bonuses for doing ordinary chapter business. For example, each got a $3,000 Christmas bonus as well as anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for signing ordinary resolutions approved by the chapter.

The charges filed by the Ethics Office said the officials also violated tribal law by failing to present the payments for approval by chapter members before the checks were issued

10/17/2011 Navajo Times: Changes aim to protect cash from spending

10/17/2011 Navajo Times: Changes aim to protect cash from spending By Marley Shebala: There’s nearly $45 million in the tribe’s Undesignated Unreserved Fund but it may not be there for long if the Navajo Nation Council approves amendments to the Appropriations Act next week. Twelve members of the Nabik’yati’ Committee voted Tuesday to give the amendments a do-pass recommendation, making its passage a good bet during the Council’s fall session next week. The amendments, sponsored by Lorenzo Curley (Houck/Klagetoh/Nahata Dziil/Tse si’ani/Wide Ruins) would expand Ð instead of waiving – rules limiting the Council’s ability to spend the money, most of which is a one-time cash infusion from settlement of a lawsuit against Peabody Energy.

The intention is to protect the money from the chaotic methods of passing supplemental spending bills used in past years, said one Council leader, although some provisions would arguably reduce some restraints imposed under the current law.

The amendments moved at warp speed through the committee process, with the Budget and Finance Committee and the Law and Order Committee meeting during the Nabik’yati’ Committee’s lunch break to review the legislation, which they both gave a “do-pass” recommendation.

The proposed amendments would add language to the Appropriations Act that would allow the Council to make supplemental appropriations earlier in the budget year.

The current budget year started Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2012.

The tribe’s spending law now prohibits the Council from making supplemental appropriations until projected revenues are met and the UUF, the tribe’s rainy day fund, has a minimum balance equal to 10 percent of the prior fiscal year’s budget.

In this case, that would be $17 million since the 2011 budget was $170 million.

The projected revenues for the 2011 budget were not realized until August, two months before the end of the budget year.

The Appropriations Act also mandates that any amendments to it must come from the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, of which Curley is a member.

In presenting his bill to the committee Tuesday, said the reason for the amendments is to update the law and move supplemental appropriations legislation more efficiently through the legislative review process.

“These amendments make it simpler and easier for the Council to serve the needs of more constituents,” he added.

B&F committee Chair LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad/Newcomb/San Juan/T’iistoh Sikaad/Tse Daa K’aan/Upper Fruitland) said in a separate interview that the move to streamline the process for supplemental spending began as soon as the delegates learned that the UUF, which for the last couple of years has been millions in the red, now contained close to $40 million.

Bates, who has championed spending restraint during his years in the Council, said the amendment process was initiated to prevent a repeat of past years where last-minute spending requests would come from the Council floor with little or no explanation or justification.

Approval depended more on the political clout of the sponsor than on the proposal’s merit, with massive expenditures involving a little sugar for every chapter being particularly popular.

Bates also noted that the law currently requires the B&F Committee to hold hearings on the annual budget and supplemental spending bills, although the Law & Order Committee recommended that this responsibility be ceded to the Nabik’yati’ Committee, to which all the delegates belong.

Bates said that the committee’s proposed supplemental spending process would set priorities for allocating funds, such as the Peabody settlement, that are a one-time windfall.

Among the potential competition for supplemental spending are all three branches of the tribal government, which got significantly less than their stated need in the current budget.

According to President Ben Shelly’s 2011 budget message, the executive branch is short by about $65 million.

The much-smaller judicial branch’s unmet needs totaled about $1.6 million, according to previous statements by Chief Justice Herb Yazzie.

10/20/2011 Navajo Times: Delegates say lawyer went too far with reform bill

10/20/2011 Navajo Times: Delegates say lawyer went too far with reform bill by Marlley Shebala: Should the people vote on proposed changes to the Navajo Nation Government Development Commission Act? The Navajo Nation Council’s attorney, Edward McCool, says yes. But the chairman and vice chairman of the Council’s Subcommittee on Government Reform say no. The disagreement between McCool and the subcommittee unfolded when Chairman Leonard Tsosie and Vice Chairperson Jonathan Nez saw that McCool had written the subcommittee’s proposal to change the commission as a voter referendum rather than an amendment to the act. Then he posted the referendum legislation on the Council’s Web site for public comment on Oct. 6.

Tsosie and Nez said in separate interviews this week that they believe McCool overstepped his authority, and that the subcommittee is expected to meet Monday, Oct. 24, at 1 p.m. in the Council chamber to discuss his actions.

Both delegates emphasized that the subcommittee had nothing to do with McCool’s decision to make their bill a request to the Council for a referendum.

“His clients tell him to do one thing and he does the opposite,” Tsosie fumed. “He’s just making our life harder.”

McCool said Tuesday that he was asked to draft legislation and he did that.

On Sept. 20, McCool sent a memo to Nez questioning the subcommittee’s plan to amend the law and reduce the commission from 12 members to five, eliminating representation for several groups in favor of putting more delegates on the panel.

McCool stated in his memo that the Navajo Nation Supreme Court noted the “significance” of the commission and its office in a July 2010 ruling: “Of all the entities established by the Title II Amendments, the Commission on Government Development and the Office of Navajo Government Development are the sole entities established according to the wishes of the people expressed through the coordinator of the Government Reform Project.”

Power to the people

McCool also quoted the ruling’s warning for the Council not to usurp the right of the people to determine their preferred form of government, which the commission was set up to determine.

The high court stated that “the power over the structure of the Navajo government is ultimately in the hands of the people and (the Council) will look to the people to guide it” and “that the power of the people to participate in their democracy and determine their form of government is a reserved, inherent and fundamental right expressed in Title I of our Dine Fundamental Law and the Navajo Bill of Rights,” McCool quoted in his memo.

Tsosie said the subcommittee already had a discussion with McCool about whether the Supreme Court’s decision meant the subcommittee’s amendments to the commission had to go before the people as a ballot referendum.

“We didn’t ask for (referendum) language,” Nez said Tuesday. “The chief legislative counsel has his own interpretation of the Supreme Court decision. We, as delegates, have our own interpretation. We’re following the Supreme Court order.”

10/20/2011 Navajo Times: Former MacDonald prosecutors replace Balaran

10/20/2011 Navajo Times: Former MacDonald prosecutors replace Balaran By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times: The Special Division of the Window Rock District Court has decided to go with experience in replacing Alan Balaran as special prosecutor. The division last week approved hiring Santa Fe law firm of Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom & Schoenburg as the new special prosecutor. “The Rothstein law firm, led by attorneys Eric Dahlstrom and Richard Hughes, will continue the investigations into alleged misuse of discretionary funds by high ranking officials of the Navajo Nation,” a press release from the attorney general’s office stated.

The firm will also look into allegations of mismanagement of funds in the OnSat, BCDS and Tribal Ranch Program and other matters assigned by the special division, which is composed of three judges.

Balaran, according to the press release, has agreed to assist with the transition.

The law firm was instrumental in the late 1980s in the prosecution of then chairman Peter MacDonald Sr., his son Rocky and others in MacDonald’s administration for a variety of crimes while in office.

Dahlstrom, who has been a member of the Navajo Nation Bar Association for at least 30 years, was deputy attorney general of the Navajo Nation from 1987 through 1991.

Hughes has also been a member of the Navajo bar for at least 30 years and was one of the lead prosecutors in the MacDonald case.

In the press release, the attorney general’s office said it was “fully supportive” of the appointment. Both the current attorney general, Harrison Tsosie, and his predecessor, Louis Denetsosie, are named defendants in the civil suit filed by Balaran.

The attorney general’s office stated that it “is fully committed to the resolution of these matters pursuant to Navajo laws, principals and cultural values.”

Dahlstrom, interviewed by phone at his Phoenix office, said Wednesday that the firm is not making any statements at this time about how it plans to proceed in the investigation and the prosecution of those who have already been named in civil suits filed by Balaran.

10/13/2011 Navajo Times: Sierra Club blasts feds for 'rubber-stamping' mine permits

10/13/2011 Navajo Times: Sierra Club blasts feds for ‘rubber-stamping’ mine permits By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi’ Bureau: A Sierra Club spokesman Tuesday blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Surface Mining for “rubber-stamping” two permits for Peabody Western Coal Co.’s Kayenta Mine, saying they had not seriously considered the impacts on the environment and the community. The US EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board this week finalized a water discharge permit for the mine over the objections of the Sierra Club, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, which claimed in an appeal that wastewater from the mine contains heavy metals that could end up in drinking and irrigation water.

EPA Water Permits Manager Dave Smith said the appellants did not present any evidence that the mine’s treated storm runoff, which is discharged into washes, is a threat to drinking water supplies.

The appellants are considering an appeal to U.S. Circuit Court.

And last month, OSM issued a “finding of no significant impact,” or FONSI, in renewing the company’s permit to continue mining at its Kayenta operation through 2015, meaning there is no need for a new environmental impact statement.

Public comment on the FONSI is being accepted through Oct. 22 and is supposed to be incorporated into the agency’s final record of decision on the permit.

Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club called the FONSI “administratively incomplete,” saying it is unsigned and does not include Peabody’s groundwater reclamation bond or hydrology reports.

The FONSI calls the mine’s impacts on the Navajo Aquifer water “negligible to minor,” and states “the N Aquifer drinking water use designation remains uncompromised.”

Bessler said OSM has ignored a recent report by University of Arizona scientist Daniel Higgins which contains data showing the mine’s use of water impacts some of the water sources around Black Mesa, where it is located.

The FONSI also finds no significant impact on local residents, despite the fact that four households would be displaced by new mining.

“Relocated residents are compensated for the replacement of all structures and for lost grazing acreage if the resident can establish a customary use area claim,” the agency reasoned.

“Ask them (the residents) if that’s significant,” Bessler retorted.

9/29/2011 Navajo Times: A Helping Hand: Ministry builds hogans to help elderly, family in need

Vision Ministry of America volunteers Jonathan Yazzie, right, and Marvin Begaye, work on putting the finishing touches on the roof of the hogan Sept. 22 in Lukachukai, Ariz: 9/29/2011 Navajo Times: A Helping Hand: Ministry builds hogans to help elderly, family in need By Alastair Lee Bitsoi: To help address the housing shortage on the Navajo Nation, Vision Ministry of America has decided to build hogans for those in need.
With the help of 28 volunteers from Tennessee and Texas, the ministry coordinated a mission to construct three hogans at a total cost of $9,000 in the communities of Cove, Lukachukai and Red Valley. Vision Ministry is based in Azle, Texas, outside Fort Worth, and is supported through a network of individuals and an association of churches.

“There is a need out there for elderly, handicapped, and single-parent families as far as housing is concerned,” said Norman Begay, a contract compliance officer with the Navajo Area Agency on Aging.

Begay said the recipients of the new hogans were identified based on a needs assessment conducted by his agency, which helped determine the housing need for elderly, disabled, and single parent family populations.

Based on the standards used, Begay said, Betty Mae Joe of Cove, Charles Morgan of Red Valley, and Shawna Yazzie of Lukachukai were selected. Joe and Morgan are elders while Yazzie is a single parent with six children.

Begay, a community leader and member of Lukachukai Community Church, said he coordinated the projects with Ray Benally of Red Valley, who reached out to local churches in Cove and Red Valley to identify Joe and Morgan.

“I just left it up to the churches,” Benally said, explaining that contact with Vision Ministry occurred this past spring through Danny Migil, a petroleum engineer and consultant with Northern Oil and Gas of Houston, which drills oil and gas fields in the Red Valley area.

Benally is a lease operator for Northern Oil and Gas in Red Valley.

Once needs were identified, the ministry and the local churches went to work.

Mike Helton, pastor and president of Vision Ministry, said it was the first time the group ever built hogans, which was a learning experience in itself.

“I knew it was traditional, and I knew that it was round and knew the door opened toward the east – toward the rising of the sun – the same way the kivas are made,” Helton said. “We wanted to stay as close to tradition as we could.”

Helton said two Navajo Christians – Marvin Begay and Jonathan Yazzie – helped explain both the construction methods and the significance of the hogan design.

The three hogans, which are different sizes, are eight-sided wooden structures bolted to a concrete foundation, and have double-pane windows and heavy-gauge doors.

“It’s plenty good enough, if I had the opportunity I would like to have one myself,” Helton said. “We didn’t use anything cheap nor did we try to cut any corners.”

It took four days of intensive labor for the ministry to build them.

“”We’re really proud of all three houses, they are going to make good houses,” Helton said, adding that it’s important for local chapter governments to be involved in building foundations for more hogans.

Before coming to the Navajo Nation, Helton said he was not sure if the people would welcome him and his ministry members into their communities because of their “lighter” skin, but that certainly was not the case.

He was not shocked by conditions on the Navajo Nation, however, explaining that he grew up with poverty in the Appalachians.

“Norman identified the needs,” added Kyle Beverly, who pastors the Potter’s House Fellowship Church in Harriman, Tenn. “We just want to help people in need.”

Helping improve the lives of people through the construction of homes is nothing new for Beverly and his church, which built the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home in Oakdale, Tenn., March 21-26 for an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Beverly said his church sponsored fundraisers, including donations from church members, bake sales and a golf tournament, in Tennessee to generate funds to build Yazzie’s hogan.

“We wanted to change their lives and give them something they may not have got on their own, and share the love of Christ,” Beverly said, adding that nine members of his church participated in this mission trip. “We raise a lot of money for missions.”

The Potter’s House Fellowship Church has built missions overseas including in Brazil, China, Jamaica, Kenya and Mexico.

“Were honored to be here, so honored,” Helton said. “We like it here and we’ll be back.”

Begay said the work of the ministry could not have come at a better time because the Navajo Area Agency on Aging has depleted its annual funding to help its target population, Navajo elders. The budget year ends Friday, Sept. 30.

In addition to building the hogans, Vision Ministry brought 3,000 winter coats, 1,000 bags containing personal hygiene items, 4,000 pounds of rice and beans, and 33 plastic barrels for water storage.

“There’s no one in the organization that won’t give or won’t work to help someone,” Helton said. “They’re all pretty special people.”

“The three hogans, which are different sizes, are eight-sided wooden structures bolted to a concrete foundation, and have double-pane windows and heavy-gauge doors. “It’s plenty good enough, if I had the opportunity I would like to have one myself,” Helton said.

“We didn’t use anything cheap nor did we try to cut any corners.” It took four days of intensive labor for the ministry to build them. “”We’re really proud of all three houses, they are going to make good houses,” Helton said, adding that it’s important for local chapter governments to be involved in building foundations for more hogans.

Before coming to the Navajo Nation, Helton said he was not sure if the people would welcome him and his ministry members into their communities because of their “lighter” skin, but that certainly was not the case. He was not shocked by conditions on the Navajo Nation, however, explaining that he grew up with poverty in the Appalachians. “Norman identified the needs,” added Kyle Beverly, who pastors the Potter’s House Fellowship Church in Harriman, Tenn.

“We just want to help people in need.” Helping improve the lives of people through the construction of homes is nothing new for Beverly and his church, which built the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home in Oakdale, Tenn., March 21-26 for an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Beverly said his church sponsored fundraisers, including donations from church members, bake sales and a golf tournament, in Tennessee to generate funds to build Yazzie’s hogan.

“We wanted to change their lives and give them something they may not have got on their own, and share the love of Christ,” Beverly said, adding that nine members of his church participated in this mission trip. “We raise a lot of money for missions.” The Potter’s House Fellowship Church has built missions overseas including in Brazil, China, Jamaica, Kenya and Mexico. “Were honored to be here, so honored,” Helton said. “We like it here and we’ll be back.”

Begay said the work of the ministry could not have come at a better time because the Navajo Area Agency on Aging has depleted its annual funding to help its target population, Navajo elders. The budget year ends Friday, Sept. 30. In addition to building the hogans, Vision Ministry brought 3,000 winter coats, 1,000 bags containing personal hygiene items, 4,000 pounds of rice and beans, and 33 plastic barrels for water storage.

“There’s no one in the organization that won’t give or won’t work to help someone,” Helton said. “They’re all pretty special people.”

Information: Mike Helton
817-825-0485
rchoutmin@abl.com