Hiring Special Prosecutor Is Out For Navajos - Tim Giago: Indian Time In This Busy World
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation Council emergency resolution that placed President Joe Shirley Jr. on administrative leave also referred investigative reports on OnSat and BCDS to the Navajo Attorney General so that a special prosecutor could be hired to look into the matters further.
When District Court Judge Geraldine Benally ruled Monday that the resolution is unenforceable because Council did not follow statutory requirements, that meant that the language on hiring a special prosecutor is null and void as well.
Albuquerque Attorney James W. Zion sent a letter Thursday to Attorney General Louis Denetsosie saying he will block the appointment of a special prosecutor on behalf of his client, Duane “Chili” Yazzie, should Denetsosie proceed.
Yazzie is president of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. His name appears along with several others in a section of the resolution that requests investigation and possible prosecution of ethical, civil and criminal charges.
“The District Court decision invalidated the resolution because the Council did not follow its own procedures. There was no emergency, and as far as I'm concerned, the special prosecutor is off the table,” Zion said Friday. “How can the attorney general act on a resolution when the resolution has been invalidated by a court?”
In a letter to Denetsosie, Zion said, “I call upon you to formally declare that you will not move forward with an application to appoint a special investigator unless you are prepared to tell my client and the public the basis for going forward ...”
During Monday's hearing, Shirley's attorneys argued that the resolution was illegal because it was a bill of attainder and was intended to punish the president for his political initiatives. A bill of attainder, according to Webster's New World College Dictionary, is a legislative enactment by which a person is pronounced guilty, without trial, of an alleged crime. It is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
“It is the president's belief and legal counsel's belief that Council was hasty in placing him (Shirley) on leave without so much as hearing from him,” said George Hardeen, communications director for the Office of the President/Vice President.
“It was a violation of due process, there was a presumption of guilt instead of a presumption of innocence, and a penalty was applied before process had been implemented.”
Zion stated in his letter to Denetsosie that “it is time for public officials in the legal arena to declare that the law must not be, and shall not be, used for political purposes.” Benally did not make any findings or conclusions on the arguments about bill of attainder.
“The trial court very carefully ruled on the narrowest ground possible. The judge did precisely what the judge was supposed to do on that. You don't decide big cosmic questions if you can resolve it basically on a question like the Council didn't follow its own procedure,” Zion said.
“My letter points out that I'm using exactly the same grounds of objection that were presented to the court, and I'm sitting and waiting, and I want notice because I'm going to intervene and I'm going to block the special prosecutor if he proceeds – assuming of course that the court goes along. But, we'll see.”
On Dec. 15, the day after the court's ruling, the Navajo Nation people voted overwhelmingly to support the president's initiatives – reducing Council from 88 to 24 delegates and giving the president line-item veto authority.
Leonard Chee, who represents Leupp/Bird Springs/Tolani Lake, said Friday that members of the Western Agency Council will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. Monday at the Council chamber on how they intend to proceed.
“Several chapters from Western Agency didn't support this, including my three chapters that I represent. They're saying, 'Why don't we take a position to just let the other four go with this, since we didn't support it, and have our own representative. How can we challenge that vote using Dine Fundamental Laws?' ”
Chee said that as of Thursday three members of the executive staff – Isabelle Walker and Angie Cody, both of Western Agency, and Barbara O'Keefe – were fired. He questioned whether that was a retaliatory move because Western Agency didn't support the president's initiatives.
Hardeen affirmed Friday that the three women had been terminated. “In the seven weeks President Shirley was out of office, mistakes in judgment were being made. It's a matter of trust.”
In the absence of Chief of Staff Patrick Sandoval, who was fired Dec. 1 by Vice President Ben Shelly, Walker was named acting chief. “Isabelle's job was to hold the staff together and ease the growing tensions and insecurities and help do what was necessary to ensure the president's return. Apparently that didn't happen,” Hardeen said. Cody, an executive staff assistant who handled the office finances, also was terminated as a matter of errors in judgment and trust, he said.
During the president's absence, O'Keefe, who had been working in the First Lady's office, was moved to be an assistant to Sharon Clauchischilliage, who the vice president brought in to replace Sandoval as chief of staff, Hardeen said. When Shirley was reinstated, one of the first things he did was bring back Sandoval. Along with Sandoval came his assistant, Christopher Morris.
Clauchischilliage was returned to the Washington office, and because of the rearrangement of positions, O'Keefe was left without a position, Hardeen said.
When asked Friday about what Council's next move might be, Legislative Counsel Frank Seanez told the Independent, “I really can't discuss this matter with you at this time.” Calls to the Office of Attorney General were not returned and there had been no comment at press time from the Office of the Speaker.
Delegate LoRenzo Bates, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, said Council needs to be careful with what it does next. “We can't act with emotion. I certainly understand the feeling, but we must not act with emotion because it can be looked upon as political payback, and that's not something the people would accept.”
“Nonetheless, this whole situation has to be looked at. I don't want these smart attorneys to play this card they have in their back pocket to say it's (special prosecutor) null and void. I'm talking on behalf of the 40 to 50 people that got put out of a job at BCDS. I'm talking on behalf of the millions of dollars that the Nation had to give up.
“You have an individual that's running out there scot-free – Hak Ghun – enjoying our money. The longer we delay, the further away he gets from any possible prosecution.”
Where is Hak Ghun?
I rec'd e-mails last summer from two people who were doing business with Hak Ghun in California. Passed the info on through the proper channels to the Navajo Nation, too.
Is There Still A Place For Indian Time In This Busy World?
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
When we are young it seems that time is either too short or too long. Summer vacations are much too fast and it seems like the school year is forever. But something happens to time as we age. The older we get the faster it flies. Remember the old saying; "Time is like a roll of toilet paper: the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.
Out here on the Northern Plains we have another form of telling time: It is called Indian time. It means that a meeting will start when everybody gets there and the meeting will last as long as all of the people have had the chance to voice their opinions. Indians didn't spend their lives with one eye on the clock because they had to deal with that thing called time long before they ever saw or heard of a clock.
Time was measured by the movements of the sun, stars and the moon. You've all heard about using the moon to gauge time. "It will be many moons before I see you again." There is a town in Wyoming called Ten Sleeps. It was named because from one point on the map it took 10 nights of travel (10 sleeps) to get to that location. Where the journey originated we don't exactly know, but it must have been a well traveled destination from that locale to make it important enough to name a town after the journey.
When Lakota children started school, maybe at the day schools that were common in the early years, or later at the Indian boarding schools, time became an important factor in their lives. Classes started at a certain time. Recess was at a certain time. And if you attended a mission boarding school, the morning church service was at a certain time. The way their grandparents measured time became inconsequential. But isn't it a thing of beauty to measure time by following nature. For example, when the nights became so cold that the branches in the trees made snapping noises, to the Lakota it was known as "The moon of the popping trees" (December).
And then the children started to follow a routine based on time. The dining rooms were opened for meals at a certain time and the closed at a certain time. The Sunday night movies were held at a certain time. And so the children from the far reaches of the Indian reservations were now oriented to living their lives on a time schedule.
Of course time had a way of weaving itself into many facets of Indian life then and now. The children know what time Sesame Street is on the air. They know what time a basketball game is going to start and if they were told they had to see the principal at 9:00 a.m. sharp, they kept their eye on the clock to make sure they were there on time. And so time was not only a friend, it could be an enemy.
For those who left the reservation to enlist in the military, they ran into a whole new system of keeping time. The first night in basic training, or boot camp as it was best known, they heard the bugle play reveille as the sun rose and taps when the sun set. The clock no longer read 3:00 p.m., it now was known as 1500 hours. In the Navy time was measured in bells.
A joke in the Navy was about a radio station on the San Francisco Naval Shipyard that one day announced the time like this: "For all of you Army personnel, the time is now 1500 hours. For you Navy guys, the time is now 3 bells, and for you Marines, the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 3." Needless to say the Marines mutinied after that little announcement.
While in the armed forces Native Americans were thoroughly acclimated to time. Many even learned to synchronize their watches with their squad leaders before heading into a potential firefight. The word would be, "We will kick off at 1600 hours. Synchronize your watches." Of course, the men about to go into battle changed it to, "Time to simonize your watches."
And so time has become a part of our lives. We get up to go to work by an alarm clock and leave work when the clock strikes a certain hour. Children rush out to the street to catch a school bus at a certain time and they are dropped off at the front door by the bus at a certain time.
Does that mean that Indian time is no longer relevant? If you have ever had to attend a Tribal Council meeting or a board meeting on an Indian reservation you would not think so. A news reporter from a Rapid City television station showed up for a meeting of Lakota that was supposed to start at 9:00 a.m. Well, he sat and checked his watch every five minutes until it was nearly 10:00 a.m. before the key people scheduled for the meeting began to wander into the meeting place with little or no urgency. It drove the reporter right up the wall because to the media time is money and this guy felt like he was about to break the television station's bank.
In a way it is sad to see the concept of Indian time vanish, but like so many things that are dependent upon the clock, it will probably happen. What do you think?
(Tim Giago is the editor and publisher of the weekly Native Sun News. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991. He founded the Native American Journalists Association, The Lakota Times, Indian Country Today and the Lakota Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com or you can call him at 605-721-1266)
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