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home : opinions : opinions April 24, 2015

11/19/2013 10:31:00 AM
Letter to the editor: Navajo Nation leaders must take responsibility for Bennett Freeze area

To the editor:

There is no doubt one of the most troubling features of the Navajo Nation's economic development needs is the lack of political leadership. President Shelly displayed a lack of political leadership at the recent Navajo Economic Development summit organized by Sen. Carlye Begay at Twin Arrows.

To say I was dismayed at President Shelly's response to a crucial question posed by a representative from the Bennett Freeze area regarding the lack of attention to the area and for the veto of funds intended to support efforts in the area is an understatement.

Frankly speaking, he did not have the courage to tell that person and the audience the truth. Instead President Shelly put all of the blame on the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) suggesting that things might be a lot better for the people living in the Bennett Freeze area, if only the BIA were able to tell the Tribe who has ultimate authority to develop the area.

Mr. President, these are Navajo people. They are your people and I dare say many of them probably cast their vote for you hoping your leadership would make a change for the better. To suggest their livelihood depends on what the BIA does or doesn't do is preposterous.

A good heads-up leader would have seized this opportunity to explain in detail that the Nation has a sensible plan to fix the area-which is what people want most from their president-and many Navajo business leaders would surely support it, had you been more truthful to put in plain language an explanation of some of the major challenges that keep Navajo economic development from progressing, not just for the Bennett Freeze area but for the entire Dineh Nation.

Most everyone understands that lack of access to capital, little to no land-use planning, unstable education system, weak outside investment, and virtually no support for individual Navajo businesses (forcing Navajo business leaders to compete with the Tribe) have, each in their own way, contributed to major setbacks, causing the Tribe to continue to dig out of their respective holes with fewer resources, less time and, almost certainly, more pain.

There is no easy way out.

But, to confront these hard truths becomes unavoidable. I believe we're likely to see some wild, angry and destabilizing politics that could make the economic development even more difficult, particularly in creating good-paying jobs and fostering a stable work-force.

Deep holes and weak leaders are a bad combination.

Wallace Hanley

Window Rock, Ariz.

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