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Racism, Window Rock, Retaliation, & Rebellion

Racism, Window Rock, Retaliation, & Rebellion

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Published by brendanorrell
By Christine Benally and Jack Utter
By Christine Benally and Jack Utter

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Published by: brendanorrell on Sep 05, 2013
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Racism, Window Rock,Retaliation, & Rebellion
September 2013
By Christine C. Benally and Jack Utter
Christine Benally & Jack Utter, Ph. D., J. D., when they presented at an American Indian rights conference some years ago.A husband and wife team, they live and work in the Window Rock, Arizona area on the Navajo Nation.
Racism & Movies
“Art imitates life” is a common saying. We
see the idea most often, perhaps, in motion pictures.A recent film and an even more current one,
The Butler 
, respectively, address racism against black Americans. We
‟ve watched
both films, thelatter on Memorial Day of this year. It wasemotionally tough for Jack because of the too closereminder of the 1950
s and „
60s South in which hegrew up. It troubled Christine most because of subtlecomparisons she made with today
‟s Navajo N
is a fictional parody of a brutalexample of cotton plantation slavery in the mid-1800s. It ends with gratifying though equally brutalrevenge by a gun-toting and explosives-wieldingfreed slave just before the Civil War.
has the typical white master of a plantation; and a white overseer, or foreman. It alsohas a head slave butler who keeps all the other slavesin line through their fear of him and the power heexerts on behalf of the white master. The treacherous butler can have slaves flogged, beaten, and evenkilled. They do what he says.The second film, coincidentally titled
The Butler 
, is a true story. It begins, as well, on a cotton plantation in Georgia in the 1920s. Slavery has beenunconstitutional since 1865, but racism obviously hasnot. The black workers on the plantation are stillunder great fear of job loss, intimidation, and perhapsmuch worse retaliation by the white plantationoverseer 
and others in the white-controlled politicaland legal system in the Deep South at that time.The overseer is, as well, the son of the whitewoman who owns the plantation. He wears a pistolas he patrols the black workers picking cotton in thefields. One day he takes a black work 
from next to her husband and little son while
they‟re working in a cotton field―
and rapes her in anearby shack. The husband and the other workers,
despite knowing and hearing what‟s happening, do
nothing. The son, warned by his dad not to cross theoverseer, asks why his father 
doesn‟t do something
 when the overseer walks by after the deed is done.The father then, and apprehensively, says,
“Hey” to the overseer, who stops 10 feet away. The
overseer turns toward the father, pulls out his pistol,and shoots him dead through the forehead in front of 20-30 black witnesses. They know their realities, andcower back into the cotton rows. The dead man islater buried in a makeshift hole by the field hands.This was ordered by the plantation owner 
 , a w
itnessto the killing, and the murder goes unreported.The little boy
about eight years old, andwhose mother loses her mind
is taken to live in theowner 
s house where he is strictly raised to be ahouse servant. Years later he leaves, and as an adultworks his way north to Washington, D.C., where he becomes a waiter in one of the fanciest hotels intown. He is so good at his job that in the mid-1950s
he‟s hired to be
a butler in the White House.The butler works there originally for President Eisenhower, and on into the time of theReagan Administration. Then he retires. Restrained but still degrading racism is experienced in the WhiteHouse for most of the nearly 30 years of hisemployment. Two examples are the lower pay andno promotions for black staff, when compared towhite staff doing the same jobs for the same length of time. This goes on for decades. The black staff,even in the White House, feel compelled not toquestion the discrimination in pay and promotion.Eventually, under the Reagan White House,the butler from Georgia presses the claims for  promotion and equal pay for equal work when he
goes before the racist white equivalent of an
of the White House staff. The butler isdenied his request. He only succeeds with anintervention by Mr. Reagan who, nonetheless, is notentirely sympathetic to issues of racial equality in theU.S. and elsewhere.
Window Rock,Retaliation, & Rebellion
Window Rock, the Navajo Nation capital, isa symbol of Navajo, or Diné, government; likeWashington D.C. is for the United States.There are perceivable parallels between thesettings and racism of the films just referred to andwhat has happened and is happening to the Navajo Nation, and with the Diné People of today.Since at least the 1930s, the Navajo Nationhas been like a big money-making
outside interests. It‟s not cotton
and slaves at issue, but things like coal, oil, gas, water rights, and border town fleecing of Navajo buying power.The obvious
masters of the plantation
aremultiple outside corporations, coal companies, power companies, politicians, major retail business interests,and the surrounding states. And, yes, they alsoinclude the Tribe
the federal government,and its primary agent, the Interior Department.The white overseers for the Navajo Nationare now, and have been, made up of certain lawyersin the Navajo Department of Justice (DOJ), andsometimes in the Legislative Branch, who further influence outcomes through their own Navajo andnon-Navajo agents within the government. One of the more noteworthy of these non-Navajo agents, Najam Tariq, is within the Department of Water Resources (DWR). He controls nearly all Navajolivestock water and millions of Navajo dollars; asubstantial amount of which he misapplies in waysthat serve him politically, and perhaps otherwise.There is another highly relevant phenomenon about him. Jack, who also works in theDWR, has observed how closely this agent of DOJcompares to the white controllers of AfricanAmericans when, right after passage of the CivilRights Act of 1964, the controllers had to changetheir ways. They cleverly modified their techniquesof racial domination to be less abrupt and obvious, but still effective in keeping black people in check and themselves superior as before.The non-Navajo DWR man, Najam Tariq,manipulates, bribes, intimidates, psychologicallydominates, intimates DOJ is tapping phones, and
 very occasionally
 physically threatens the moreresistant from among the over 100 Navajo Nationemployees in the Department; a number of whom
„cower in the cotton‟
rather than stand up to him.The few who do resist are quicklysuppressed, get frustrated and leave, or are fired.Oddly, but stereotypically, some of the oppressed arehis biggest
„supporters,‟ because
they are either wellassimilated to his control, or they benefit from it anddo not want anyone to rock the boat.He has also exploited the Nation for decades, making sure his family
living verycomfortably in a nice Phoenix home five hoursaway
 benefit more than they legitimately should,and at the cost of the Diné People. Although there isa Navajo hiring and promotion preference, this mancleverly avoids it and has displaced up to four thusqualified employees.
further insure
d he‟s one of 
 the highest paid employees on the Nation.Over recent decades, t
he Navajo „head
who serve outside interests above their own people
have been a few Navajos on the Council, atDOJ,
in the Speaker‟s office,
in the
office, and in several Divisions of the ExecutiveBranch. They too, in their own ways, overlyaccommodate the outside
and DOJoverseers who make up what many are calling the
“shadow government” of the Navajo Nation.
It isthis shadow government, and not the legitimate Navajo government,
that ultimately controls the Nation and its economic and political destinies
which remain in a nose dive as the outside interests parasite off the Diné in multiple ways.Within the Nation itself, it is DOJ andlawyers like Stan Pollack and Kathryn Hoover (and perhaps Henry Howe, now often named by the DWR agent, Tariq, as his helper) who head the shadowgovernment, which wrongly rules the Nation to the benefit of outside political and economic interests.
DOJ, and the lawyers who precededthem, serve and have served as a conduit, or funnel,through which outside control is exerted on economicand other issues critical to the Navajo Nation. Hereare two brief examples.The first takes place in 1949. The Navajo
 Nation‟s lawyers
, with Interior Department support,told the Council it would be a great thing for them togive up to the surrounding states a large part of their 
sovereignty represented by the Nation‟s civil,
criminal, and court jurisdiction. The Council wasthereby duped into passing a resolution supportingthis idea, by a vote of 37 to 20. But only Congresscould finally approve the giveaway. It actually did. Not long after that Navajo vote the U.S.Congress, relying on the Navajo
Council‟s legislative
support, passed federal legislation to accomplish thismajor step toward termination of Navajo government.
A few Navajo leaders finally realized what washappening and desperately went to Washington to tryto put a halt to implementation of the federallegislation. They and their few supporters were ableto convince President Harry Truman to veto thelegislation. Incredibly, the Navajo Nation lawyerswho backed this travesty retained their jobs.The second representative event took placein 1969. T
he Navajo Nation‟s lawyers
again, andwith tremendous Interior Department support, toldthe Council how great it would be to accept thesupposedly super deal being offered them by theowners of the proposed Navajo Generating Station.(
is a coal-fired power plant then proposed to be placed on the Reservation next to Page, Arizona,where it has now operated for over 30 years.)The largest NGS owner, the U.S. Interior Department (which had, and still has, a huge conflictof interest), owns roughly 25% of the project.Accepting the advice of their lawyers andInterior, the Navajo Council approved everything put before them. Only recently has the full extent of howmuch the
were cheated been realized.
Itamounts to
hundreds of $millions since 1969.One of the smaller but most easily explainedexamples of the gross NGS cheating was the landlease fee paid to the Tribe for the 7,400 acres of Reservation land used by the highly profitable (for the owners) NGS project. The fee was set by theInterior Secretary
; again the Tribe‟s trustee and head
of the biggest NGS project owner 
Interior.For use of the NGS-related land, the Tribewould receive a one-time payment, covering the next50 years, of 14¢ an acre. Therefore, they got a totalof only $1,000 for use of the 7,400 acres for 50 years,when they should have received $millions.Thus, the entity which benefitted most fromcheating the Navajos was the one which owned thelargest interest in the NGS project, the faithfulInterior Department trustee of the Tribe.The
 Nation‟s lawyers were not fired and
Interior was not sued for these gross violations of fiduciary and trust responsibilities. This was becauseof more
cowering in the cotton
and acquiescing inthe arrogant and dishonest influence of the Interior Department, other NGS owners, and disloyallawyers. Old habits, embedded in Indian countryfrom centuries of oppression, are hard to change.Even when Navajo Nation lawyers of morerecent times have been caught at still serving outsideinterests above the those of the Tribe (and at the costof hundreds of $millions to the Diné People), the Navajo leadership eventually have backed off and let
the offending lawyers―
again including those likePollack and Hoover 
remain here and in control of things as they were before. The most glaring recentexample involved the (thankfully) failed and potentially disastrous water rights settlement act proposal of 2012, known by its U.S. Senate
designation of „S. 2109.‟
se lawyers, and others, manipulate our government against itself and our People
,” observes
t‟s the case of 
cowering in the cotton
fields‟ or 
fearing the White House
overseer‟ all over 
again. Yet i
t doesn‟t have to continue, as
we shouldrealize and change; like the Georgia butler finally didduring the Reagan administration.
 Thus, the entire premise behind thisillegitimate shadow government on Navajo evolvesfrom the same seeds of racist denial of human self-determination that took place on the plantations in the19
and 20
centuries, in society as a whole in thoseeras, and even in the White House into the 1980s.
“We‟re still „less than‟ to those
traitors in the shadowgovernment
,” says Christine, “
we let it go on.”
 So, racism routinely happens here on Navajo, and elsewhere in Indian country, in the 21
 century. Again, we saw it in the patronizing,deceptive, and bigoted introduction of S. 2109 into
the U.S. Senate by Jon Kyl on Arizona‟s 100
  birthday in 2012.
He was supported―
secretly,illegally and in writing
 by the two white lawyers,Pollack and Hoover. Neither of these lawyers hasany Navajo Nation sovereignty and no right tounilaterally exercise it, yet they did so without permission from, or even knowledge of, the Councilor the Navajo People when it came to S. 2109. TheDiné were thereby denied their human rights of free, prior, and informed consent. This, again, wasultimately and obviously a race-based denial.
There‟s an Englis
h term for that kind of treachery, if it were done to the United States
. It‟s
 called treason. Why would these lawyers dare do it?
because they look down on the Diné, as doPeople like Jon Kyl. And, they believe they can getaway with it, even if caught. They bet on the Navajoleadership eventually reverting to the old pattern, andrelenting under the authority of arrogance and liesexercised by DOJ (and supported by the outside
and a white-controlled system) much likethe field hands in Georgia did in the 1920s.
It‟s not the Council‟s
fault, until they realizeexactly what
 been going on for decades.
The bizarre thing is, the shadow government (especiallythe lawyers and their internal agents) only has the power we Navajos allow it to have
,” remarks
The flow of that power from us to themcan be cut off in an instant, as soon as the truth of the betrayal is recognized and acted upon. We havegenuine greatness among us, but it is greatnessinterrupted and stolen by the shadow government.

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