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DuVal Promises Cabinet Post On Native American Affairs
Fred DuVal, Democratic candidate for governor, emphasized education as his top priority in a speech to the Navajo Tribal Council in which he also laid out plans for a cabinet-level agency within Arizona on Native American affairs.
He said the new agency would help tribes deal with problems of jobs, crime, drugs and threats to traditional ways of life.
"Having a Cabinet position will make your needs a priority by getting the attention they deserve and the manpower to see that those needs are dealt with," he said. "And this is how it should be if, together, we are to undertake such enormous problems. Also, because of my ties at the highest levels of the Federal Government, another commitment I make to you is that I can, and will, press the White House and Administration to keep their commitments, to be fair, and look to how we work to change laws that so many layers of make bureaucracy on Dine lands so difficult."
Text of DuVal's speech:
My name is Fred DuVal. It is an honor to be with you.
I was born in New Jersey but when I was very young, my family moved to Oklahoma for a few years and then, in the early 60’s we moved to Tucson. Our family found a true home in Arizona. We set deep roots and have lived here ever since. I am married to Jennifer Hecker of Tucson and am the proud father of a 20 year old son Will, who is in the U.S. Army, and a 5 year old Monte.
My parents instilled in me three important life lessons: One, to care for one another; Two, learn about and listen to the people around me; Three, take education seriously and use that education wisely in order to make Arizona a better place to live.
My beloved father, who keenly demonstrated this last point, was the founding Dean of the University Of Arizona College Of Medicine. He believed Arizona desperately needed physicians that were educated within the state and that people from all walks of life should have an equal opportunity to get that training. You may know of the MedStart program he founded to recruit minority children into medicine.
And I am proud to remember that as the Assistant Secretary of HEW in 1972 he made the decision that the entire Navajo Nation would be a single health planning agency even though it was in three states. A beautiful rug and sand painting given by you to our family is among our most prized possessions. I worked to continue his, as a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, as a strong proponent of the expansion of the UA Telemedicine program. And speaking of family, I want to mention that my brother, David, is with me today and we have brought the rug you gave my family to share with you.
I have enjoyed many visits to the Reservation through the last 40 years, beginning with my time on Governor Babbitt’s staff 30 years ago. One of the most important visits was with a special friend of mine and the Navajo people. I had the honor of working for Bill Clinton in the White House and among other things was responsible for tribal relations. I was honored to bring him here in 2000 – to this very spot!
A few weeks ago I joined the opening of your magnificent new Twin Arrows Casino which I attended with my friend Derrick Watchman and my brother. It was a lovely event and is a great undertaking. My most recent visit was just last Saturday for the great parade. I rode with the Dusty Trail Riders – and I am still very sore!
In my visits I have seen first-hand the great work you have done in economic expansion. I know how rightfully proud you are of your achievements, and I congratulate you on this tremendous progress. However, I know from meeting with several of you and others on the Navajo reservation that there is much work to be done.
Many basic human needs remain unmet on the reservation such as: access to clean water and electricity; a comfortable, safe place to live; stable, sustainable jobs; and equal educational and economic opportunities.
I believe we need a true change in direction -- not just in leadership --but in the ways we act as leaders -- to make Arizona a better place for us all to live, work, and enjoy for lifetimes to come.
The problems many Dine face are difficult and often very complex. Economic expansion and development in the Navajo Nation can be impeded by challenges including, the vastness of the land-base and the lack of infrastructure, and availability of financing. Access to educational opportunities -- especially for adults who want additional job skill training needed to compete in today’s workplace and for the younger generations who will someday become your future leaders, engineers, nurses, teachers, day-care providers, mine workers, among others.
As you have taught me, each of the challenges to economic development are multi-dimensional. For example, trust land status impedes collateralization and fractional ownership complicates negotiations with many interested parties. Traditional occupations such as farming and ranching are not as financially stable as they once were and face additional challenges such as the long-term drought, making these proud professions even more difficult. Adding to this are the separate 20 land management districts, which often create administrative problems. Home building and repairs of existing homes are exorbitantly expensive due to the distance of the reservation to the source of materials – not to mention that the average Navajo salary cannot afford many of these renovations.
The difficult business of leasing land to non-Indians often complicates business development due to the federal government requirements and approvals, such as those required by BIA or EPA that are often a lengthy, if not a legally demanding process. These challenges often feed of one another and not in a good way.
As I mentioned earlier, economic development is ever increasing throughout the reservation. Your economic engine not only supports the Navajo people, but also many of those who live near the area as well as receive benefits from the development on the reservation - such as through power generation. Many actions are being taken to increase sustainable economic development, such as the empowerment of local chapters and the formation of community development corporations.
Yet over the past two decades Navajo businesses have blossomed, you have introduced the Dine College and wonderful new healthcare facilities. Speaking of healthcare, I should tell you that my father Merlin DuVal proposed one of the early healthcare initiatives – the UA telemedicine program - on Navajo while he was Dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona and while serving on the Board of Regents I led its expansion. It brings hospitals and physicians closer to people who have limited care in their immediate areas. I hope we can have a longer conversation on how we continue developing ways to improve your economic development goals now and in the near future.
Then there is the matter of water. Water issues arising from settlement rights, the long-term drought, water quality, installing the necessary infrastructure into every home, etc. are extremely complicated and far too difficult to address in this short timeframe. Again, these are issues we can anticipate working through together. But I honor what the word “rights” mean in the phrase “water rights’. We must start there and then seek to cooperatively address our respective water needs.
Let me address energy. I believe NGS should not shut down. It is too important to those who live here along with others who reside just outside the reservation. It is critical piece infrastructure for the region, Arizona, and other states. It is also critically important to other Tribes who depend on the electricity to power the CAP canal. It is a major source of employment, employing over 520 full-time employees, 85% whom are Navajo.
It is also economically critical to the Navajos in that it provides a steady revenue stream worth millions of dollars from both coal sales as through leasing. I know there are groups actively working to find solutions to keep the plant active for many years to come while decreasing polluting forming haze. However, there needs to be a firm proposal and solution to the problem, one that keeps the Navajos needs at the forefront. And should EPA decide to close a unit of NGS we must address the potential shortfall in the development fund. The loss of so-called excess sales is a genuine threat to your budget and we must have a strategy for this.
Renewables, such as wind turbines or solar panels are a promising part of the future and should be advanced everywhere we realistically can. But to become the mainstay of energy, it will take many years. However, possible formation of non-traditional alternative energy partnerships between the state and tribes may be something to explore in the near future. This interests me.
Unemployment and education are major issues in rural counties and on the reservation. Today, in Navajo, unemployment hovers around 56% and the poverty rate at 57%. There are reservation homes without running water, indoor plumbing, electricity and refrigeration. Less than 20% of homes have telephones. 20% don’t have central heat. 50% of children are living in poverty. 50% graduate from high school and 2% graduate from college.
Racism, alcoholism, crime and drugs are at unacceptable levels both on the reservation and off. AIDs is on the rise. The judicial system is unprepared to deal with all of it. These are things you already know. They are important things.
Education is my number one issue. I am the former Chair of the state Board of Regents, and have children in school. And I know, as you do that education is the key to opportunity. But I also know your challenges in this area are unique, with sustained and adequate funding, long transportation commutes, internet connectivity, retaining good teachers in remote locations – and each require specific solutions.
I have heard that many of the traditional Navajo ways of life are at stake. This loss would be tragic. You are great people, brave and honorable, who helped make this Nation safe through your current soldiers and past veterans of foreign wars who gave us the only codes in World War Two that could not be broken. You have also made the west, particularly Arizona, a better place for all of us to live by virtue of the cultural gift you give all of us, and the world.
In this spirit I helped to create Homolovi State Park and will work with you to protect against desecration and loses of sacred sites. How to temper these losses are of great interest to me and I look forward to those discussions.
Friends, as your Governor, I will be an ardent supporter of Arizona’s Indian Nations, and especially with the Navajos who are and must be partners in the creation of jobs, education and opportunities that serves us all.
To this end, one of my first jobs as Governor will be to do reorganize the Commission for Indian Affairs. The Commission is not as prominent as it could be, partially because the legislature has not provided adequate funding to be truly effective. To counter this lack of funding, I believe there should be a Cabinet level position named: we might call it the Office for Indian Affairs. This office should be led by a team chosen jointly by you and me. That team would report directly to me and work directly with other Cabinet members. The days of quarterly meetings with little outcomes would be gone.
Having a Cabinet position will make your needs a priority by getting the attention they deserve and the manpower to see that those needs are dealt with. And this is how it should be if, together, we are to undertake such enormous problems. Also, because of my ties at the highest levels of the Federal Government, another commitment I make to you is that I can, and will, press the White House and Administration to keep their commitments, to be fair, and look to how we work to change laws that so many layers of make bureaucracy on Dine lands so difficult.
And I will give teeth and meaning to the Executive Order Governor signed in 2006 that calls for regular tribal consultation. Particularly on any proposed actions or policies that affect tribal land, water and resources as these have been yours for time immemorial.
To conclude, I seek your counsel, and I wish to work with you on problems, issues, and find new opportunities that positively affect both Arizona and the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation is truly an extraordinary place, of scenic landscape and sacred land, of vibrant people – the Dine’ and filled with boundless opportunity. I hope that by working closely that we will form a strong meaningful partnership – based upon government to government respect - that will help it, and Arizona, to rise to the full level of its potential.
Lastly, I would ask that if my words have meaning for you, and should you have come to have trust in me that you will support me in my effort to make Arizona a better state for all Dine and all Arizonans. Your endorsement of me, should you choose to give it, would be the most meaningful of all I have received throughout the state.
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