Tuesday, December 11, 2007

'Vigilant Ones,' Navajo group opposes line of credit for casino

Tuesday Dec. 4, 2007

Ha'a'da'a Sidi Group Files Intent to Sue to Protect Navajo Sovereignty and Assets Window Rock, Navajo Nation -- Current and former Navajo leaders, social and environmental activists, medicine people, and concerned citizens filed a notice of intent to institute a lawsuit today. The suit seeks an injunction as well as to declare invalid the implementation of legislation authorizing the Navajo Nation President, Controller, and Attorney General to enter into a $100 million line of credit with JP Morgan CHASE and other banks, to finance gaming within the Navajo Nation.

The Ha'a'da'a Sidi Group today served notice to Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr. and Navajo Attorney General Louise Denetsosie. In Navajo, Ha'a'da'a Sidi translates into The Vigilant Ones. In this case, the Vigilant Dineh are watching and ensuring the protection of Navajo sovereignty, property and resources. The Ha'ada'a Sidi Group does not oppose Navajo gaming, although some individual members object.
The Ha'ad'a Sidi Group opposes the hasty and reckless manner in which the Navajo Nation President and some members of the Navajo Nation Council passed the $100 million line of credit with JP Morgan CHASE and other banks to establish gaming within the Navajo Nation.
The Ha'ad'a' Sidi Group initiated legal action to protect the Navajo people's sovereignty, resources and property from the ill conceived legislation that will subject the Navajo people's assets for repayment to banks and that will relinquish Navajo sovereignty to non-Navajo business interests.
Lead plaintiff and former Navajo Nation President, Milton Bluehouse Sr. expressed serious concerns, shared by members of the Ha'a'da'a Sidi Group, that the legislation authorizing Navajo Nation President Shirley, Controller Mark Grant, and Attorney General Louise Denetsosie grants broad authority to engage in financial activities that pose a dangerous risk to the Navajo people's governmental sovereignty and assets.
"Essentially, what we have here is poorly drafted legislation forwarded by the Navajo Nation Council's Office of Legislative Counsel which grants President Shirley, and his political appointees, unbridled authority to engage in financial dealings without the proper oversight of the Navajo Nation's governing body, the Navajo Nation Council.
The recent situation with ONSAT and several divisions including the Office of the Controller reveals Navajo President Joe Shirley's administration cannot be trusted to deal ethically and abide by Navajo laws with non-Navajo business interests."
Mr. Bluehouse Sr. said. President Bluehouse further added, "When this legislation was on the Navajo Nation Council floor for discussion, I expressed my concerns with Mr. Derrick Watchman, JP Morgan CHASE's Vice President of Native American Banking. I also approached individual delegates of the Navajo Nation Council.
In the end, my concerns and words, like those of many Navajo people across the Navajo Nation, were not heard or taken seriously.
Now, along with Ha'ad'a' Sidi Group, I am making my voice heard through the legal process to ensure our future and our money is not jeopardized by this poorly developed casino plan."
Co-plaintiff and New Mexico Navajo community leader Mr. Vern Lee added, "I want to stress that Ha'a'da'a Sidi does not oppose Navajo economic development initiatives, such as gaming, to create jobs for our Navajo people and fund Navajo programs that provide services to Navajo families. However, the Navajo Nation must pursue gaming development in a manner that upholds and respects the credibility and integrity of the Navajo people's government.
Today, the Shirley administration and some members of the Navajo Nation Council have created a massive financial burden that will be paid back by future generations of Navajo people and their children.
Our God, our grandparents, and parents taught us that we must take care of our children and our future. We are filing the notice of intent to bring suit to ensure that our future is protected from questionable financial dealings."
Former Dineh Chairman Peter MacDonald Sr. says, "I commend the parties to the suit for bringing forth issues that are disturbing and requiring clarification. I am sure the majority of the Dineh do not want to have their land, natural resources, and other assets to be pawned. From my understanding of the arrangement made with JP Morgan CHASE it is not much different than a pay-day loan. Thousands of Navajo veterans have fought in many wars to protect and keep our assets, resources, and tribal sovereignty, not to have it pawned to outside financial predators. I hope the proposed lawsuit helps clarify many of our concerns."
Similarly, former Arizona state Senator Mr. James Henderson and co-plaintiff noted that, "When the Navajo Nation government and its leadership seek to improve economic conditions within the Navajo Nation, Navajo sovereignty and our very resources: the land, water, coal, oil and gas must be protected to the fullest extent of Navajo laws and to the fullest extent of our leaders duties and responsibilities to ensure the protection of our future for many generations to come."
Dineh writer and social activist, Ivan Gamble expressed his concern regarding the governmental process that led up to the passage and signing of the $100 million line of credit. "When I heard the Navajo Nation Council tabled the legislation, I was relieved that Navajo leadership shared the same concerns many of us had about this legislation.
But a couple of days later, the Council reversed its decision and threw caution to the wind without any serious discussion about the financial and legal ramifications to Dineh sovereignty and whether the repayment terms were truly the best that the Nation could acquire from a trillion dollar banking industry in the United States, or internationally for that matter. Our group, Ha'a'da'a Sidi, filed this legal action to ensure that our government protects the interests of the Dineh, our way of life, and future generations."
Elouise Brown, president of the Dooda Desert Rock Organization, says, "It's not that we oppose economic development however we would like to live the Dineh Way of life taught to us by the Diyin Dineh, rather than the methods of most tribal leadership in Window Rock, which is diametrically opposite to the will of the grassroots people. We are doing this because we are speaking from the heart, on behalf of our elders who cannot speak out for themselves."
Members of the Ha'a'da'a Sidi Institute filed the notice of intent to institute suit to protect the Navajo people's sovereignty, property and resources from further erosion by the hasty and reckless decisions of current Navajo leadership.
The Ha'a'da'a Sidi Institute does not oppose economic development initiatives such a Navajo gaming so long as such economic initiatives are thoroughly addressed by the proper administration of Navajo government and the rational and proper functioning of the Navajo Nation Council, according to Navajo laws and leadership. The legislation approving the $100 million line of credit creates risk for not only to this generation, but for generations to come. Ha'a'da'a Sidi Group seeks the support of grassroots people and groups who have been marginalized by the Navajo Nation government

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008: www.earthcycles.net/
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