Navajo Nation and Socialism

navajoWhy would I call the Navajo Nation a socialist nation?  I’m glad you asked.

The Diné (Navajo people) receive monthly checks from their government who receives monthly checks from the U.S. government.  They depend on those government checks.  They do not have to work to survive.

Few jobs exist on the reservation – other than governments jobs, school-related jobs, health-care related jobs, and jobs in the few retail businesses that exist – convenience stores and fast-food outlets in the smaller communities – and larger retail stores in the few larger towns.  Other possibilities include mines (coal) and power plants.  Most of the businesses are owned by people outside the Reservation.

Navajo Nation government, local and National, experience corruption typical of governments.  Power, control, and opportunities for fraudent accumulation of wealth corrupt humans.  To be sure, many government officials are very honest and servant-minded.  Nevertheless, corruption frequently harms the Nation’s citizens.  U.S. government corruption also harms.  Some local citizens call the Bureau of Indian Affairs – the BIA – “bossing Indians around.”  🙂

From my perspective, socialism is not working well on the Navajo Nation.

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Indians on the Reservation

indiansWhere I teach, at Piñon High School on the Navajo Nation, we have one Indian on staff.  His name is Udai Singh, and he teaches Chemistry.  He has an earned Ph.D. and is originally from India.  Therefore he is an Indian, right?

Columbus Day is coming next month.  We won’t be celebrating it on the Navajo Nation.  When he crossed the Atlantic Ocean and struck land, Columbus thought he had arrived in India.  He called the natives he encountered “Indians.”  Unfortunately, the moniker stuck.  To this day, I have yet to meet a Native American who originated in India. But, on the Navajo Nation, I have an Indian friend, Udai Singh.

Interestingly, Udai (Dr. Singh), tells me the British called his dark-skinned people, native to India, “Niggers.”  Oh, the arrogance of cultures that think they are better than others!

Socialism on the Navajo Nation

100_3833The most difficult challenge that I see on the Navajo Nation (Dinetah) is giving the people incentive.  Incentive to acquire an education, incentive to study, incentive to get a job (if any exist), and incentive to start a business is lacking.  In the public school classrooms, children lack incentive to study and learn.  Yes, that’s true in most public schools, but it appears to be more of a challenge on the Navajo Nation.

Understandably, many Navajo people do not want to leave their homeland to work.  They really love their homeland and most love their culture.  The younger people who do not love their culture at least are more comfortable with it than with “white man culture.”  When they do go to college, off the reservation, they face many cultural challenges.  A high percentage do not persist until graduation.

The Navajo do highly value military service, and a high percentage of them do enlist.  Military service ensures some form of education, including technical, that helps them obtain work after discharge.  Military service also provides opportunities for travel and reasonably safe immersion in another culture.  While many of these enlistees are very patriotic, almost all are willing to die for their country, they primarily enlist to protect their land (the Reservation) and to get off the Reservation and receive an informal and formal education.

I really respect the Navajo.  I really want to provide incentive to start businesses on the Reservation.  The people are highly intelligent and creative.  With a little incentive and encouragement, the sky is the limit for these amazing people!

Navajo Nation

Navajo sealZoe and I have maintained a domicile on the Navajo Nation since December, 2008.   We have lived in Flagstaff, AZ for eight years.  While I have learned some about the Navajo Nation during that time, much, much remains to be learned.  Some experience with the Hopi and Alabama-Coushatta (Texas) informs what I share in this blog about Native Americana.

The Navajo Nation (and many other “Indian Reservations”) are “Third World Countries” inside the borders of the United States.  According to Wikipedia, “The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned or neutral with either capitalism and NATO (which along with its allies represented the First World) or communism and the Soviet Union (which along with its allies represented the Second World). This definition provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions. Although the term continues to be used colloquially to describe the poorest countries in the world, this usage is widely disparaged since the term no longer holds any verifiable meaning after the fall of the Soviet Union deprecated the terms First World and Second World. While there is no identical contemporary replacement, common alternatives include developing world and Global South.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World)

Citizens of the Navajo Nation do enjoy freedoms such as freedom of the press, political rights, and civil liberties.  I chose the descriptor “third world” because of their basic poverty (by U.S. standards) and the fact that they do not align with capitalism.  They can choose to do so, but the U.S. government has effectively converted them to a socialist nation.

Family and community are basic values of the Navajo (Dine), and their religion and culture are closely linked.  These two factors help keep the Navajo Nation strong.  Conversely,  socialism keeps them weak.

Hopi Warrior Dance

HopiPueblo-280The sound of drumbeat approaching from the eastern end of the pueblo plaza sent people scurrying toward the plaza perimeter and up ladders for the flat rooftops of domiciles surrounding the plaza.  As the men entered the plaza, chanting/singing in masculine harmony, a quiet settled on the estimated crowd of 500 people.

This ceremony was repeated many times over the course of the day.  Between ceremonies, people sat around and visited, wandered around the long, narrow village perusing simple vending stands for food and/or crafts, or went into one of the homes to rest and/or eat.  Our host honored us with an invitation to come into the home of her husband’s clan for a delicious lunch.

The warrior dance originally served as a cleansing ceremony for warriors returning from battle.  Recently it was been utilized for local military personnel returning from Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq to cleanse them from PTSD and other traumas of battle.  This day, the recipients of the ceremony were young boys, so the purpose was different and unknown to us.

What an honor it was to be invited to attend this event!  What a vivid lifetime memory!