Navajo Filmmaker Standing Firm On Freedom Of Speech - Part 2
WINDOW ROCK Shonie De La Rosa says one of the great beauties about being an independent filmmaker is that it allows him freedom of speech.
So nobody was more surprised than him when he was called into a meeting last week and told that his latest creation, “D.C. Navajo” had upset the Navajo Nation President’s Office, and that he could face possible disciplinary action.
“I guess the timing was wrong because of this meeting” between Kayenta Township, for which he works, and Kayenta Chapter. The two entities have been at odds for several years, with some members of the public calling for abolishment of the township.
De La Rosa said “D.C. Navajo” was filmed last week in one day. “It took me two days to edit it. It was not like it was a huge, massive production.”
In doing research for his film, he looked at current major issues on the Nation. Besides Desert Rock, he said, he found casinos and pegged his film to that, thinking, “I’ll make it that this guy is getting a kickback from the bank so they can lend them some money to build these things. They give them an incentive.”
Then Thursday, he stumbled across a Navajo Times story which stated that JP Morgan Chase had awarded the Navajo Nation an open line for credit for $100 million. “How was I supposed to know? It just so happened that when I was doing research on the Internet, JP Morgan Chase was the only bank named in the story.
“If it was Wells Fargo or whatever, I might have used Wells Fargo. If that’s the problem, it's strictly coincidental. It’s not like I have any inside information on what's going on,” he said.
“Why are we borrowing money in the first place when we’ve got nearly a billion dollars of our own sitting in the bank? Wouldn't it be smarter to borrow it from ourselves? Wouldn't the interest rate be a lot lower?”
The Sheephead Films production is “about a guy that’s just no good.That’s it. Joe Shirley’s picture is hanging up on the office wall, just like his picture hangs up in any other Navajo Nation office. The guy gets a check from J.P. Morgan Chase and he turns around and gives Joe Shirley a thumbs-up - the picture on the wall.
“The whole meaning behind that is that Joe Shirley was the main one who initiated the whole thing on the Navajo casinos. He spearheaded it. He got it going. He’s giving him the thumbs-up like, ‘You know Joe, if you didn't get this whole thing rolling, I wouldn’t be getting this money.’ It’s not directly involving Joe Shirley as part of the corruption of this guy at all.”
De La Rosa says he is not a bad person; he’s a filmmaker. “We’re not out to expose anything that might be a cover-up or anything like that. I just make films because I enjoy it. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. It’s not like I went out and got a DUI or did a hit-and-run, or beat my wife up in Gallup, or anything like that.
“I’m a filmmaker. It’s my right to make films about anything I want to.” Since “D.C. Navajo” posted on the Internet for viewing, he said, “I’ve been getting phone calls from people that work for the Navajo Nation, the BIA, the school districts, saying it’s about time somebody did a film like this.
“A lot of people said, ‘My boss is like that. It’s just horrible. But don’t use my name’. Even in the e-mails, I get e-mails from people who say, ’I work for the Navajo Nation’, or ‘I work for the BIA’, or ‘I work for the school, but I’ m using my yahoo or hotmail account to tell you I really like this film because I don’t want anyone to trace this e-mail back to my work account and know it’s me’.”
But fear of speaking out due to possible retaliation is not a situation unique to Navajo, he said. “Unfortunately, it is like that all over. It’s retaliation against people that say things are wrong, and that’s sad. It shouldn’t be like that.”
De La Rosa has been with working with the township for about three years. Before that, he spent many years working for Kayenta School District. It was the same there, he said.
“Nobody ever spoke up for fear of their jobs. I know what it’s like. It’s like that everywhere you work here on the rez. You can't speak up against the boss, you can’t speak up to what you think is wrong. If you do, you’re a troublemaker and you get thrown out. They replace you. That’s the reason why most people never say anything.
“The way I feel, I’m standing up for everybody that’s fighting for their freedom of speech, whether they be a filmmaker, a painter, a journalist, a book writer, whatever. It’s an American right. I’m not just standing up for myself.
“For someone to flex their muscle and use their power to go in there and try to suppress something that hurts their ego or feelings or whatever itis, that's wrong. It’s an abuse of their authority and it’s also violating my constitutional rights.”
If he hurt the President’s ego, he said, “So what? People hurt my ego all the time. They say, ‘Your movie sucks’ And I’m like’Ouch’! Yeah, that hurt my ego, but I’m not going to go out there and try to bring them down. It’s their right to say what they want to say to me about my work. I respect that and I would like them to respect that it's my right to make whatever I want to.
“Why make a big deal out it, you know? He (Shirley) gets chewed up worse than this in editorials or editorial cartoons. This is just a spoof; it’snot meant to be true or factual. And it’s not even about him. It’s about a tribal official in the Navajo Nation office in D.C. There was no harm intended. I wasn't trying to bring up any issues.”
On a side note, he said, he received a call Saturday from an individual who works in the D.C. office, commending him on the film. “The individual stated that it was the funniest film he had ever seen. The individual requested that he remain nameless. It’s easy to see why, considering the situation at hand.”
”D.C. Navajo”, a Sheephead Films production, is available for viewing on the Internet on You tube’s website:
TO SUBMIT an ARTICLE, OPINION PIECE, COMMENTS to the Native Unity Digest, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
AIROS NATIVE NETWORK plays music, news and other great programs from Indian Country - www.airos.org
FOR NATIVE CELEBRITY NEWS - go to www.nativecelebs.com
Visit Vietnam Vet. LARRY MITCHELL at http://www.potawatomivet.com and click on his blog at the site.
NATIVE BIZ LEARNING CENTER - www.learn.nativebiz.com was developed for tribal education specialists serving tribal communities. Any tribal community can register at NO COST.
SUPPORTING NATIVE AMERICAN/FIRST PEOPLE - ARTISTS, FILM MAKERS, ENTERTAINERS, ETC. http://www.krystynmedia.blogspot.com.