Rebuttal to Joe Shirley's Commentary (03 March 2007)
by jsefick on Thu 08 Mar 2007 07:18 PM PST
This letter is in response to Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley’s commentary “Desert Rock is key to Navajo Nation’s independence” (03/03/07). For 3 ½ months I have been an active member of the ongoing winter blockade and vigil on my mother in laws’ sheep ranch on the site of the proposed plant. I have had the tremendous honor of standing in resistance with some very committed men and women from the affected areas. I have first hand knowledge of the passionate and desperate struggle to oppose this project from the only people on earth that are directly affected by the construction of this proposed monster. In his letter Shirley states that “the Navajo Nation overwhelmingly supports the Desert Rock project, and we need it.” If the term “Navajo Nation” is meant to be synonymous with “Navajo People”, then I must take exception with his statement. If, however he is speaking of the Navajo Nation as being a vehicle in which the strong and beautiful Dine culture should ride down the highway of assimilation into the dominant generic culture of America, then he is right on target. It is important to make the distinction between the Navajo tribal government and the Navajo people themselves. Just like in the rest of America, the needs of a governmental machine are often at odds with the needs of the people who are ill-represented by that government. Joe Shirley no more represents the values of traditional Navajo people than George Bush represents the will of the American people. Like many other Native people who have achieved a PHD, it seems that Dr. Shirley has bought into the American ideal of prosperity at all costs. It is an insidious and narrow minded view that sees sheepherding as a barbaric and outdated way of life that must be replaced with coal jobs or all is lost for our people. The people who Shirley wants to “lift out of their grinding poverty” are spending the little money that we have traveling to Santa Fe to voice our opposition. We are mustering all of our resources, camping in the cold for months, and finding talents that we did not know we had in our fight to save our land, our air quality, and our way of life that Shirley finds so pitiful. We will find our wealth in our children’s health. We will find our happiness in the knowledge that we never turned our back on Mother Earth or failed to defend her. As for our independence, we were born with it, Joe; it has always been with us.
Thomas F Johnston PLS Fruitland, NM