Season Two, Episode 09 – A Line Drawn In The Rez Dirt

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CHILI YAZZIE: There’s, a story with our people in that the four colors of the four peoples principally around the world. Each color was assigned a specific gift way back in the early eons. For instance, the black people were given an understanding of water. The yellow people were given an understanding of the air. The white race was given an understanding of the fire. And the red people were given an understanding of the earth. And these four elements comprise the totality of our existence, light, water, air, and earth.

And so indigenous peoples, or at least the red peoples in this regard, are caretakers of the earth. We are maintaining our responsibility in understanding and recognizing the sanctity and the need to have this good relationship, strong relationship with the earth and the land.

The world knows me as Chili Yazzie. Colonialized name is Duane H. Yazzie. The H. Stands for (Navajo name) which is a Navajo variation of the Navajo term (Navajo name), which means little singer. My grandfather was a medicine person and his name was Little Singer, so it’s just a carrying on of the name. Very rarely go by Duane. Just in formal settings. But even there I’m Chili Duane Yazzie, and I’ve had the name since I was 16 years old. Different explanations. But back when I was 16, you had to be cool. So I was Chili cool and a little Chili hot at the same time.

My mother’s clan is a (Navajo name), which is a salt clan. My dad’s clan is (Navajo name), which means a waters converging. And then we also always include the clan of our wife, which in turn is the clan of our children. And that’s (Navajo name), and that means water dweller. So that’s who I am. And we’re situated here in Shiprock, Navajo Nation, Northwest New Mexico. Right now we’re sitting in our Hogan, a traditional home for our people from way back. We have this here not to live in, but we still subscribe to some of our native ceremonies.

The structure is eight sided octagon, all of logs. It’s quite expected that the door of a Hogan would face the east for many reasons. You want the positive, good forces that there and the cosmos coming in from the east. You want that to shine into the Hogan here as a first act of awakening of each day. And it’s a blessing and in many, many ways, So this is a place of family coming together to observe ceremonial ways of our people.

We as the Diné people, we have our roots, values, and principles that we were born with way, way whenever we were placed here. Those values and principles are still very real because we’re still very real. They differ from American or any other way out there. But this is who we are as a people. My activism in the last two decades or so has been more concentrated to the governmental process.

Our own tribal governmental process in terms of trying to make things better for our people. Meaning that we need to approach the world, approach our life, approach our future with our values and our principles, our culture, our language. For us to have a comfortable survival, we must return to those values and those principles. Realign ourselves with those elements to help us carry forward.

That’s my concentration right now. Born in 1950 place called Bellemont, which is over the hill from Flagstaff. I was brought back here to Shiprock when I was two years old or so. Grew up on the south side. What I understand now, to be an upbringing with very limited resources. Not to say that we were in poverty, but we certainly were without a lot of basic things. We didn’t have running water and for much of my earlier years we didn’t have electricity. South side of Shiprock, which was just about a mile away from the uranium processing plant. And my dad worked there. 

AUDIO CLIP: The magic of uranium stems from its property of radio activity. 

CHILI YAZZIE: Of course, we lost him to complications as a result of uranium mining.

AUDIO CLIP: It is this same property, however that endangers the health of workers who mine and handle uranium. 

CHILI YAZZIE: My mom cleaned houses for some of the Anglo families. So I got to peek into this other world, nice white houses with the lawns, and to be able to turn on a television. Somewhat of a culture shock, I suppose. When I got a peek into that kind of life. 

AUDIO CLIP: Imagine the joy of men who believe themselves doomed to die, discovering a new shore, a new hope.

CHILI YAZZIE: To actually see that we as native people, were second class citizens, in our own lands, in our own neighborhood. Getting exposure to racial overtones that I saw from older Anglo folks.

AUDIO CLIP: Our America.

CHILI YAZZIE: I got raised in the traditional Navajo way with the tribal ceremonies and all that. But my dad was a wayward drinking man. So my mom finally had enough of that and took us to church. I got into the wild side of life there early, being introduced to alcohol. One of the things I point at on why alcoholism is so prevalent among indigenous peoples. Is the fact that we continue our journey of transition. There are so many struggles. Maybe we don’t want to transition into downtown America.

Maybe we want to, we are just caught up between two different worlds. Displaced people. So people find refuge in that bottle. I didn’t really feel a need to understand the injustice in the world with native people until I was maybe 18 or 19 years old. I began to read about some of the situations around the country where native peoples were having a hard time because of racism and discrimination, exploitation, and and so on. You need to look at the history with the newcomers. Of course, we’ve been here as native people for many centuries. 

AUDIO CLIP: 500 years ago, there were people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, but neither knew about the other. 

CHILI YAZZIE: This Columbus person comes sailing over the horizon and it was over. Our paradise was over.

AUDIO CLIP: On the western side our side, the people had reddish brown skins and lived in huts.

CHILI YAZZIE: Since 1776 we’ve suffered, subject of genocide.

AUDIO CLIP: In Europe. The people were white skinned. They had learned how to build houses in large sailing ships, but they still didn’t know much about the rest of the world. 

CHILI YAZZIE: Atrocity of the long walk that our peoples were taken on in 1864 and so forth. 

AUDIO CLIP: These great tribal nations were made to march a thousand miles, leaving thousands of their old, their young, and their infirmed. In hasty graves.

CHILI YAZZIE: The challenges of the modern world controlled monsters of American government, of world government continued to squash the lily guy. 

AUDIO CLIP: The United States enforced its ambition against the Indian nations and the Indian people who stood in its path. They’re endowed by their.

CHILI YAZZIE: We’ve been hurt time and time and time and time again. That trauma is what’s carried forward. 

AUDIO CLIP: That men are created equal. They’re endowed by their creator. Certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty in the pursuit of happiness. 

CHILI YAZZIE: I graduated outta high school in 69. That summer was in time of immersing myself into this whole business of Indian activism. I came to know of the different causes, the different specific struggles that some of our peoples were having. Over land rights, over fishing rights, water rights. That’s when the American Indian Movement first made its appearance out here.

AUDIO CLIP: Several groups of American Indians have banded together to march on the nation’s capital for a redress of some long-standing grievances. But the president.

CHILI YAZZIE: That was a movement that was basically engulfing the native community everywhere. 

AUDIO CLIP: I’m a member of the American Indian Movement, and I’m from the indigenous nations of the Western Hemisphere.

CHILI YAZZIE: The whole theme was that we are a subjugated people. We’re taken advantage of by the bigger society. We can’t have that. We we will not stand for that. 

CHILI YAZZIE: As the indigenous people. We have watched. We have watched this thing happen on our hemisphere. We have seen what has happened. We have seen them come in and confuse and attack. We understand that the issue is the land. The issue is the earth. We cannot change.

CHILI YAZZIE: We will come together and we would talk and we would bring out the big drum and sing and so on. There needed to be a reawakening of who we are as a native peoples. AIM certainly provided the impetus to, to do that. I’d never been off of the reservation. I went to Phoenix one time and maybe to Albuquerque two, three times. That was the extent of my exposure to the city. I went off to school that winter to Oakland. Actually, I caught the tail end of the BIA relocation program. 

AUDIO CLIP: In March of 1824, president James Monroe established the Office of Indian Affairs in the Department of War, 175 years of the institution that now is known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

CHILI YAZZIE: BIA, a very actively on behalf of the federal government, took us off of our homelands. Taught us a skill out there in the city and kept us out there. To Americanize us to get us away from the throws of poverty. And carry on the mission of take the Indian outta the man. So I went off in ’69, probably the last segment of that forced assimilation. Here I am going off little old rez boy me, naive, very innocent. All of a sudden I’m walking the streets of Los Angeles. Talk about culture shock. It was very, very, very major. It was a converging of activists from across the country and yes, AIM was very prominent there.

Also, at the same time, the Black Panthers were rattling the cages over in Oakland. We always tried to make some of these massive anti-war demonstration marches that were happening in Frisco and Berkeley, and just to be there and to see. The sad part of all that is I was just consumed by alcohol. Ran into people that were in the same situation. So that’s all we did, just party, very active, drunk. I couldn’t get a job anywhere in the whole area. BIA says, well, we invested a lot in you. And they, they tried to keep me out there, but I needed to come home. So I finished my school and came home — and you always want to come home. There’s no other place to be.

That summer, that’s when I first heard the music XIT. The soundtrack of the Native movement at the time. It was at a party at my cousin brother’s house. I walked in and there’s just music blasting away. And we played that record just almost nonstop for two days. The music of XIT was very conceptual. It was a music that made a statement on the the plight of the Red Man. Which is actually the title of the first album.

They talked about our native predicament with America, colonizers, the invaders. And whenever the band was out here in the area we went, we had to be there. I eventually got to know the guys and the band and helping them tear down and stuff. In September, they finally came out to ask me, we need somebody else to go on the road with us to help us with equipment. Are you available? Of course I was available. I was with the band from September ’72 through December ’74. Our music was of course, very radical for the day. We were welcome with open arms on any Indian country reservations. And we played a lot of colleges. We weren’t welcome in downtown America.

We traveled every state this side of the Mississippi. It was a dream, of course, all the hard times of having to live on bologna and coors beer, that was our life. For the first year I was this a roadie going into the second year, went up that percussion guys he just upped and left and he was gone. I got trained to get on stage, and so I was on stage for pretty much over a year. One concert that we had down in Las Cruces at the PanAm Center or lead guy, a guy named Tom Bee, he came out with the United States flag. The Stars and stripes wearing it as a cape.

That didn’t set well with some of the rednecks in that country. Of course, we were loved by the native people. I remember newspaper articles then that said, what does XIT mean? Does that mean they’re leaving or they going somewhere? If they are, I’m ready to help them pack. To me, that was a carrying on of my contribution to making our comment on our situation as native people.

AUDIO CLIP: XIT means the crossing of Indian Tribes. XIT, Ladies and gentlemen, our first group for tonight are just that. Seven men who got together to sing about their heritage and their lives. And they do color, nature, God, Dick. 

CHILI YAZZIE: Being with the group, being on the road with XIT was my life. It was my whole reality at that point. I was, party animal, especially being with a rock and roll band. But I screwed up too many times and I let the band down, too many times. We were in Lake Tahoe and we just played– outside of Reno and I messed up really big. No more chances we can’t have this. So I said, okay.

Had a hangover for two weeks, but I quit cold turkey. There in ’74, when I finally came home for good. I’d been home four months after leaving XIT. That summer was a very difficult summer because that’s the summer that we march on the community of Farmington. Which is just 30 minutes away from us. Because of discrimination and racism and the actual murdering of some of our people.

These teenage boys that go to Farmington High at the time, they had this so-called sport of Indian rolling. Where they would cruise the streets of Farmington and the periphery looking for drunk Indians or Indians that needed a drink or needed a ride. And they’d pick them up at the promise of the drinking and the ride. But they’d get hauled out to the outskirts of Farmington and the hills and just get beat up, and that was their sport. A few times their sport turned deadly. And in this case they, they killed three Navajo men. Very much mutilated then even to the extent of trying to burn certain parts of their bodies over an open fire. Took large rocks and just bashed them, bashed their heads, killing them.

The mistreatment that we’ve been getting all along became so much greater that summer. So we stood up against that. We had seven marches, successive Saturdays. Caravans coming in from almost every part of the reservation. Sometimes thousands of us marched on Farmington. We had our main group of marchers going down the middle of the street. And those of us that were able-bodied were assigned a security to provide a buffer between the people and the city folks. There was a time during the county fair– confrontation between marchers and this pretend to be contingent of Blue Coat soldiers from history.

There was a physical confrontation and the police, of course, stepped in and tear gas grenades and a bunch of people got arrested that time. The message was twofold. We were protesting and objecting to that mistreatment. Secondly, we wanted to demonstrate to Farmington that it was Indian money that built their town and that it’s Indian money that Farmington depends on. And we proved that. Seven marches successive Saturdays. And toward the end of that, the business people, the city leaders, came and basically pleaded with our leaders to stop the marching because it was hurting them at the cash register. Actually begged for us to stop the boycott. I

have to come back to reality after all of the marches and all of the talk. You need to be able to do something constructive and beneficial for the people that will be a follow through of your advocacy. Navajo Nation has 110 chapters. A chapter’s analogous to county in relation to the state. And so we went to the old chapter house and asked the chapter as the local government to sponsor youth programs for us. We were told to come back. And this happened that when we came back the following meeting, they were electing officers.

I can imagine now that the elders had seen me marching and so forth. I was 25 at the time and I was taken into a back room and some of the elders were there. They asked me if I would be okay to get nominated, and of course I’m not going to defy them. At the time I was elected into chapter secretary. They said, well, you came here asking for programs for our youth, so you do that. So that was my marching order.

Never having been a participant in the local governmental process. Or the big government for that matter, I certainly did not really know what all this was going to mean. You needed to be a bookkeeper, a interpreter, a social worker, a writer, a jack of all trades. Needed to focus on the Navajo internal issues and not so much the outside. Shiprock has always been very independent and vocal. Throughout the decades, we’ve stood our ground on different issues, controversial issues. We’ve been at odds with different tribal administrations and Window Rock for years, for decades. A concern that we would have in terms of the tribal government is what we viewed as corruption. The tribal leadership at the time was very much in complicity with some of the big industries that wanted to take advantage of our resources.

AUDIO CLIP: Coal is the power behind electric power. Dark, rocky caverns. Well, the magic word is uranium

CHILI YAZZIE: A good for instance, there in late 1976, we were all protesting in Window Rock against this massive coal gasification plant. Protested, degradation of the environment. And also the abuse of the people given the opportunity to really voice their thoughts. Their objections to those developments. The tribal leadership and the police needed to shut us down. 19 of us got thrown in jail, tribal jail in Window Rock.

AUDIO CLIP: For the past year or so, Fairchild has been publishing a series of applications notes on integrated circuits

CHILI YAZZIE: Fairchild Corporation, the semiconductor plant. In the early seventies, they had hundreds of Navajo ladies working 24 hours to assemble electronic components for satellites and whatever. My own mother worked there.

AUDIO CLIP: Linear, hybrid memory, custom. 

CHILI YAZZIE: The working conditions there were such that the ladies had to endure long hours. Very intricate, monotonous work for minimal pay. That’s where the argument started. Some of the people felt like they needed to call in prominent activists in the region at the time. One was called The Coalition For Navajo Liberation. Then of course, American Indian Movement. 

AUDIO CLIP: American Indians are becoming militant, parading and making their demands known. 

CHILI YAZZIE: Things escalated to where there was an impasse between the management, their Fairchild corporation and the workers.

AUDIO CLIP: But even the moderates agreed they’re tired of the white man’s promises and they want action on their problems.

CHILI YAZZIE: So I wasn’t surprised to find one morning, armed takeover at Fairchild Plant in Shiprock was national news. Everything from slingshot to bow and arrows to 22’s, and to AR-15’s. Their intent was to force the company and the tribal government to come around and say, okay, workers, we’ll give you a raise and we’ll start treating you better. An emissary was sent out to ask me directly if I wouldn’t reconsider coming in with my guys with more weapons. But I told ’em that I wasn’t going to do that because I just didn’t think this was a good thing.

The armed takeover wasn’t successful. Top tribal leadership had already decided that they were just going to close up and move on. Cleaned out their desk and went away. Hundreds of jobs were destroyed. We suffered economically for many years because of it. At the end of that four years, I ran for chapter president and I lost. That was ’78. ’78, incidentally is when I lost my arm.

This day, I was going to Farmington. I picked up this hitchhiker just sitting out there outside of Shiprock. He was dressed up like Clint Eastwood and out of the movies. Then we went into Farmington, or at least almost to Farmington, and very little conversation. I was minding my own business. But he wanted to take a bathroom break right there on this side of Farmington. So he asked me to pull over and I did. Parked off the highway, maybe 30, 40 yards, and waiting for him to get outta that car, but he didn’t.

And he’s just sitting there staring at me. I stared eyeball to eyeball for maybe four or five seconds. And my whole world just changed at that instance. Heard loud ringing and felt an impact, a shock. So, so great, the whole world just went brown. Bad sand storm. I knew something terrible was wrong. And I looked back at him and out of his poncho there’s a little hole smoke coming out. I asked him, what are you doing? He shot me again. Guy had shot me with a 44 magnum, point blank, two times. Situation like that your survival instinct takes over.

So I’m in a very serious way I realize that. Got out of the car and I actually ran for a little ways saying, just don’t shoot me in the back. And he peeled out my car. He was gone. Made my way back to the highway. I eventually got to the hospital and they worked me over all night. And first bullet hit my arm right square on the big bone. The bullet shattered my bone and it all blew inside of me. So I lost part of my lung. The second bullet went down lower into my side here. And almost went through my whole body. Told the hospital people to call Betsy. Betsy is my wife.

The way I tell the story is that as I’m laying there getting prepped for surgery, she comes walking in. She was two weeks past due with our child. She said I’d lost so much blood that I was just ashen. I was turning white. During the night while they had me in surgery. She went into labor down the hall. Next morning in my morphine stupor doctor said, this man’s gonna die. He’s not gonna make it, so at least he should see his son.

They presented me the little guy and he was still wet from birth. And to me that’s all I needed to, to make it. They tried to save my arm, but five days later they said we, we can’t save it. So they took it off. My hospital bed, I got steady stream of visitors and telegrams and letters from different tribal leadership from throughout the land. And of course my rock and roll associations. They found my car. He’s always been a small time crook and those kind of guys, they go big time at some point. And I just happened to cross his path that day and he decided to go big time.

They hunted him down a week later he was behind bars and he went off to prison for a few years. I had to learn many things all over. I had to learn how to write with my left. And even through today there are things that I can’t do. Like run a chainsaw or drive a regular wheelbarrow. Stuff that I can’t do physically. Certainly changed my life. But I’ve adapted and I’m here and I’m doing fine. In ’86, I was elected into the Navajo Tribal Council. At the time, very much a rookie. Of course, I’m still who I am with my activism history. Took no hesitation to say it like it is and to call corruption what it is. One of my greatest criticisms is that our so-called Navajo government is a prototype of the American government.

AUDIO CLIP: Comes down like everything else of consequence to a matter of action on the part of a very few men and what kind of arrangements they make.

CHILI YAZZIE: It has the same mannerisms, it has the same protocols, the same procedures, et cetera.

AUDIO CLIP: And the federal government in your name makes laws which affect you. You are guided by all these laws and controls.

CHILI YAZZIE: So we have to act the part. Pretend to be something that we’re not. 

AUDIO CLIP: And remember, gentlemen, those are only a few illustrations of how the powers of Congress affect each one of us.

CHILI YAZZIE: Before the formation of this so-called centralized Navajo government back in 1923. Prior to that, our matriarchs, our patriarchs, they lived in groups by clans. They were all autonomous. They were all independent, and they took care of each other, so there was no need for a centralized situation.

AUDIO CLIP: Chairman McDonald brings a diverse background to his office as Navajo Chairman. And previously a member of President Reagan’s Energy Policy task Force. And a member of the Board of Directors of Great Western Bank and other corporations. Members and guests, please join me in welcoming the chairman of the Navajo Nation, Peter McDonald.

CHILI YAZZIE: Our tribal chairman at the time, Mr. McDonald was probably the main guy that was coordinated heavily with the big industries. 

AUDIO CLIP: Thank you very much, distinguished friends of the Navajo Nation from the House and Senate. 

CHILI YAZZIE: In ’89, they developed a scheme to buy a massive ranch. Over 500,000 acres called Big Boquillas. The scheme they cooked up apparently, is that Mr. McDonald’s buddies fronted the money to buy the ranch for I think 27 million. Somewhere around there. They went to the county courthouse. In five minutes time, the Navajo tribe would buy the ranch from Mr. McDonald and his buddies at $34 million. The space of five minutes, they turned his deal and somebody made a profit of 7 million.

AUDIO CLIP: The Big Boquillas Ranch is a real goodbye. By the way, I did not profit from this sale. 

CHILI YAZZIE: That didn’t look right to us. And we started questioning the deal. And the whole scheme came to the surface. 

AUDIO CLIP: To my knowledge, none of the console delegates or even officers of the tribe have profited from this transaction.

CHILI YAZZIE: The tribal council was very divided as we were challenging Mr. McDonald and questioning his questionable activities. We finally were able to get control of the tribal government, take Mr. McDonald out. Put them on leave. And we put in the interim chairman. So we went through that whole process, and that was very contentious. Even our police force was so divided. There was an actual breakdown of law and order there for a while.

Mr. McDonald and his supporters made a circle of all of the large communities, including Shiprock. And they said, come to Window Rock on such and such a day. We will all gather rally and we’re gonna take our government back. That was their theme.

Window Rock is the headquarters of our central Navajo government. Pretty much dictates how things will happen, including economic development. And on those appointed days, hundreds and hundreds of people came into window. The place shut down. Everybody is out of town. All of the leadership. I was the only one there with my guys, street guys. We were headquartered in the executive office of the chairman. Our assignment was to maintain control of the office. Cuz that was the symbolic possession, I guess, of the control of government. It’s crazy to me. I had a 22 pistol, real short thing that wouldn’t do much and I had one bullet in it.

So this afternoon at five o’clock, they all rallied. And they passed out the clubs. Armed themselves with that. They came into the finance office first. They busted down to glass doors. The police who intervened they got him. They beat him up. They handcuffed him with his own cuffs. They took his guns out and they threw him in his own unit. By this time, they had two pistols to two side arms. Confrontation came to a head there between those people and the police. One police officer got shot in the leg and that same officer used his weapon to take down two of them. They both died.

When the shots happened, it was just so surreal. Time stood still or something. A heavy cloud just came over everybody and just people were crying and wailing. And I saw the two people laying there, and by that time, more police had come. It was a scene that you’ll never forget. Toward evening there’s police of every sort there, from all over. Every jurisdiction in the area was there. Some of our friends on the inside came to me and said, you better get outta here before they recognize you. We just piled the truck and whatever other vehicle we had, and we came home. And hundreds of people are waiting for us at the chapter house. They just needed to hear and know what happened and that we were okay.

In the end, Mr. McDonald and several of his associates, they got sentenced to prison. 14 years I think. After our marches on Farmington in 1974, things did seem to settle down. Of course, with the sporadic incidents of mistreatment, discrimination now and then. But nothing really outward. In 2006, Clint John, he was drunk and he was beating up his girlfriend there in the Walmart parking lot.

Police were called on him. And the police officer that came, a white city cop, apparently didn’t like brown skin or was overzealous. When he came screeching in, he told Clint to get on the ground. Clint wouldn’t do it, and they wrestled. They both went down. And the story is that from there the cop got up and retreated and I guess for a moment there, Clint did have the baton. But reliable eyewitnesses will say that he dropped it. Of course, he’s very, very inebriated. When Clint gets 10 feet from the cop.

The cop just puts three bullets in his chest, a fourth one in his head, they call the kill shot. We just have to question was that necessary. Our conclusion is it wasn’t. It was this outright murder. The whole thing flared up then about the contentious relationship between Farmington and the native community.

People wondered, what are we gonna do? People are looking at me. In this very Hogan right here, right where we’re at. I called in some of my warrior friends, about 10 of us were in here. We talked about what could we do? Well, we have to make a statement. We have to march. I called it a March for Truth and Justice. All these groups, activist groups, all came out and over a thousand of us, we marched down the hill. Everybody made speeches. Tribal leadership, city people, people from the state, civil rights organizations.

Point was made that we can’t have this kind of mistreatment. Navajo Council called us into Window Rock to make a report to them. And that’s when they decided that the Navajo Nation needs a mechanism to be able to address situations like that. And that’s where the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission was formed. People who were interested in to be on the commission had to apply. So I applied our first commission meeting– first ever commission meeting they selected me as the chair.

So for four years, I served as the chair of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. There’s a great need for leadership that will give stability to our local governmental process, provide that integrity of office that hasn’t been there, that has been basically been destroyed by the previous administration. Provide accountability. Of course, people are asking me to run for chapter president. Comparable to a town mayor.

I was elected as chapter president for two terms. I sat out one term from 2008 to 2012, and I’m back as chapter president. It’s been a trying four years, but we are back to the point where there is some confidence in myself as a leader. We have the reverse of what Window Rock has. Where the system, the process that dictates how that leader’s supposed to be. Very artificial mechanism. Here is to reverse, the personality of the people is what guides this process of government. It works in such a way that it fits with who we are as a people. As native peoples we have this affinity with the earth and regard her as our earth mother.

We know that the earth lives, that the earth breathes. And the composition of the earth is akin to that of a human person. How we think about this exploitation, this ravaging of the earth. You gouge out these different parts of the earth, of course the earth is going to hurt. In our sense, coal is the lung– lungs of the earth. And her life is waning because of that. The coal they mined here went directly to the power plant.

Big concern that we had there is that they had to transport pulverized coal. And the only way they could do it was to build a slurry pipeline. And they use a pristine aquifer water to transport this pulverized coal to the power plant. It’s mind boggling how much good clean water they’ve used to transport this coal. Enough is enough and we have to do something.

So for myself, I draw a line and the rez dirt, December, 2013, I think it was, BHP mine was packing his bags to go home to Australia. And so there’s this mine here that could be sold. And Navajo Nation is thinking of buying it. We have to question the wisdom of that. Coal is a dying industry. At that, we know that the coal here is of poor quality. But here’s the Navajo Nation talking about selling mega megatons to China. We know that there’s something wrong with this picture.

We don’t get the consultation that we think we should have. And that’s when we had to take a position that day, at least I had to. I walked into the council chambers and I sat down and I heard out the discussion for some time. And I had to do something to say something to make real my, my declaration that the line be drawn in the rez dirt. I just stood up and voiced my objection.

Most of my comments was in Navajo, and what I said was that this is wrong. We spent $85 million of our money without telling us why is it that what we say doesn’t matter to you? How come we don’t count? How come our voice doesn’t count? We spent 7 million of our dollars without letting. Us know, you did not let us know this is what’s going to happen. Let’s have some, let’s have some order. I was told you’re out of order. I said, no, Mr. Speaker, you’re out of order. Counsel, you’re out of order. You’re doing something that, that we do not want to have happen. I stand in opposition to this circus. Who’s gonna stand up to the Navajo Nation Council and tell ’em they’re out of order.

That’s a major radical statement. To tell the Navajo Nation government that the government is one that is a colonial process that’s been forced upon us. That’s a heavy accusation to make. And I did not mince those words, and they’re recorded forever. Thank you. And I just walked out on my own. 

AUDIO CLIP: Now that’s the true leader right there, right out the door. Not any of you. You’re shameful, disrespectful, and I feel sorry for you. And you’re doing this to your people. 

CHILI YAZZIE: They bought the mine, very much to our objection. The mine is dying. In fact, the company that was set up to operate the mine is asking for major bailout from the Navajo nation. An act of stupidity on our leadership. What I profess on how to address this colonial government situation is to form a process that is determined to assure survival of our people. How I profess to do that is to go back to the elders. The elders and the Hogan. The medicine people that truly understand what those paradigms are. And to sit with them and come to consensus with them on how it should be, how it could be. And just begin the slow evolving process toward that.

Those values, those ways of governance that we were born with, that carried us for centuries, they’re still real. Why can we not go back to them situate a process that works in these modern times. I don’t have any doubt that we can do that. We have the roots, we have the intellect, we have the courage, and we have the reason to do that. I truly believe that it’s possible that it’s necessary. There wasn’t one creation of one people. The creator is more imaginative than that. There was a creation of four peoples with the four colors in different parts of the world.

We all have principles on how to live in harmony and in balance with the earth and in all that there is with each other. If we all could come to consensus and say, who are we? Who am I? We were placed here on this earth for certain reason. As five fingered human beings we need to understand why it is that we were placed on this earth and we need to honor that. I don’t necessarily have a need to be remembered in any sense. That’s beside the point. My life work and how that’s translated as to any memory of me that’s up to the people.

I don’t have to pretend to be anybody I’m just me. I’m just a regular guy that– I just happened to experience a rich history. I’m who I am. I’ll never change. I will never sell out. I will never be a sellout to any forces that would harm my family, my people, my nation, my land. I will never sell out. In fact, I will defend it. Will defend it for all I’m worth.

PRODUCER: So one last question. What are your hopes for the future, like for yourself and for your people? And if you don’t mind, would you mind answering it not in English and your native. Because I feel like that message isn’t for us anyway. You know what I mean?