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A death sentence for Navajoland

Dear Editors:

Ya’ah’teeh, Venaya Yazzie yinishye’, Hooghanlani nishli, Tota’di naasha, nidi Dzilnaodithlthe a’yishi naasha. Due to the recent proposal to build a third coal-burning power plant in the Four Corners area, I would like to include my voice in the resistance discussion and would like to extend my thanks and great respect to our modern Navajo leaders: Elouise Brown and the Navajo elders at Dooda’ Desert Rock, who are indeed my heroes. Ahe’he.

As a life-long resident of the areas of Farmington and Huerfano, N.M., I feel I have reason to speak out against the plunder of the beautiful ancestral lands of the Dine’ people. Through the years, I have watched the physical decline of the flora and fauna and too, the ill health affects that have come to plague my Diné people. For generations, my family and other Dine’ families have planted their crops, grazed their livestock and built their homes in the place we call Totá, (meaning the “water place”) or “Farmington” as it was later named by the Anglo settlers. Whether we want it or not, the future of our southwest community will include a massive eyesore, a third coal-powered plant called Desert Rock. The $3-billion power plant is projected to produce 1,500 megawatts of electricity for places off the Navajo reservation and Four Corners region, and instead what we will get is more mercury and carbon dioxide emissions. Electricity that will be powering cities in the Southwest and on the West Coast that don’t give a second glance to our polluted and toxic Navajoland left out of sight and out of mind. In my humble opinion, our current tribal president has sold out and has turned his back on Dine’bi keyah, our Navajoland, and thus has set a death sentence to his People; the People he is supposed to work in service for. Why? All for the material want of financial gain. Yes, money is what we need to survive in modern America, but can money buy back our health, our clean air and land free of pollution? 

The San Juan Valley near the Four Corners in New Mexico houses two coal-powered power plants, and so a thickening yellow-gray cloud of carbon dioxide pollution has continually grown in girth over the years. As a result, it doesn’t snow much anymore; yet when I was a child, I can recall winter snowfall that would bring4 2- to 3-foot snows. Now the big, white rain clouds pass right over, leaving the land parched, and now all that is left is the memories of abundant spring rains in which as a child I and my cousins would play in for hours on end. Our valley once full of huge strapping cottonwood trees now stores drying and dying trees lying in dust. Our San Juan valley is dying and the inhabitants who have lived here for generations and those who have just settled here daily inhale filmy polluted haze and exhale tainted mercury breath, not because they choose to, but because their human right to clean air has been taken away. Just think how it would be if we went to New York and told Sithe Global that they could no longer drink clean water, but polluted water.

This proposed power plant has already negatively affected many of the Navajo mentally, spiritually and soon physically. Take a stand for the Earth! Stand for the Navajo elders who are being ignored at Dooda’ Desert Rock camp! Be inspired, create and submit your work on behalf of our precious land, our Mother Earth. So, I invite the people of this community to lend their voices of support by submitting their art to the art show “Connections: Earth + Artist = A Tribute Art Show in Resistance to Desert Rock.” Please visit http://swcenter.fortlewis.edu and http://www.myspace.com/connections_earth_artist for more information. To download an application to submit your art visit: http://swcenter.fortlewis.edu/ArtistCall2008.pdf

– Sincerely, Venaya Yazzie, Diné / Hopi Artist, Farmington/Huerfano, N.M.

White gown solutions

Dear Editors,

It is with great relief that I witness Principle Lashinsky’s edict recalling the poorly thought-out decision to ban white gowns at Durango High’s school graduation ceremony. Students who have earned the right to wear the white gowns deserve to wear a symbol as a reward for four years of hard work.

But why stop there? Some may be confused by the simple white gown, a sign of purity and think: what, that maybe this handful of students are the last remaining virgins at Durango High School? No, I think not! To make it clear, a school letter would add to the poignancy of this symbol. After all, student athletic achievement is rewarded with a letter, why not a letter to recognize a student’s ability to read the minds of their teachers and their acquiesce to said teacher’s demands? So with this in mind, I propose a large red “A” emblazed on the front of these white gowns just so we all understand the nature of this student achievement.

Now I recognize that this may be an unpopular idea to some people. After all, dumb and/or lazy students are just as lovable and worthy of recognition as the few relentless pursuers of the “A.” We wouldn’t want the marginalized students in plain red gowns to get incensed and in a fit of anger take knife and scissors to the gowns of their superior classmates, cutting out the red “A” (leaving an “A” hole.) So with this realization of the universal worthiness of all students in mind; perhaps a kinder, gentler, more inclusive graduation would not stoop to such brazen declarations of individual adeptness. In other words make everyone wear the same boring red gown.

After reading the Herald opinion page for the last week or two, I have come to realize that this really isn’t fair. Many articulate parents have said as much, crying: “Foul! My student was promised a white gown, they worked (the system) hard for four years, they deserve to be recognized!”

I agree. These students and/or their parents were promised a white gown so the only fair thing to do would be to have the white gown gradually phased out over the next four years. With this plan the students of the class of  ’09 would have a gown ¾ white and ¼ red, class of ’10 would go half and half, ’11 would just get white sleeves and shoulders (angel wings) so that in 2012 all graduating Durango High School seniors will be wearing the same red, Chinese, nylon gowns to celebrate our espirit de corps as Demons, no matter what we ultimately did within reason, of course, to earn the right to wear a gown, walk down that aisle and with all due pomp … and circumstance receive a diploma.

– Ed Oak, via e-mail

Calling Mr. President

Dear Editors,

I call and leave messages for the president with frequency. What nonsense for Homeland Security to monitor me! I’m dying to tell them what I think! How about you?

– Mary Kay Taylor, Durango