Sunday, July 30, 2006

Farrakhan: Common Struggle with Navajos

Farrakhan: Navajos must demand respect
Nation of Islam leader says 'red, black people' need to unite

Published by The Independent, Gallup, New Mexico (Thurs., Jul 20, 2006)

Diné Bureau

WINDOW ROCK — Louis Farrakhan, controversial minister for the Nation of Islam, told the Navajo Nation Council Wednesday that it needed to demand respect and settle for nothing less.

Farrakhan's visit was not on the agenda, but he was given special permission by the council to give an address. Many delegates were not aware that Farrakhan was going to be at the session since the staff in the president's office was initially attempting to keep it secret at Farrakhan's request.

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. stated on Tuesday that he knew that Farrakhan was a "figure of notoriety" and Farrakhan said that dialogue between him and Shirley's office began this spring when Yo'NasDa LoneWolf Muhammed, National Director of the Indigenous Nation's Alliance-Millions More Movement began a dialogue with the tribe.

Farrakhan said Wednesday at a press conference after his speech at the tribal council that he wanted to learn more about the indigenous community, and more specifically the Navajo Nation, it is one of the largest nations, and he feels it is potentially most powerful of all indigenous people.

Similarities highlighted
He also highlighted many similarities between the black community and indigenous communities, stating that the union between the two could result in positive change. Hardeen said that during a meeting with council delegates on Tuesday Farrakhan said that his mentor, the Honorable Elijah Muhammed, prophesied a time when the "black people" and the "red people" would align together.

During his address, Farrakhan told the council the need for people of color worldwide to come together, adding that uniting of people of color would outnumber white people 11 million to 1 million.

Throughout his speech, he addressed Shirley and council delegates as "brothers," and how people of "black" and "red" color need to work with one another. Farrakhan used analogies and examples to emphasize the importance of bringing in Navajo owned businesses and infrastructure. He highlighted how many minority groups need to become producers, rather than just consumers, and said that dependence on federal dollars has caused people of color to neglect themselves.

Farrakhan also spoke of the land within the Navajo Nation being one of the greatest assets to the people.

"It is not what they will allow; it's what we will permit," Farrakhan said. When you accept your status as a minority, you begin to think like a minority, Farrakhan said. You ask for respect and equality things all people should be entitled to, he said. The Navajo must stop viewing themselves as a people alone and realize that they are part of the entire family of Native Americans a relative to all indigenous people around the globe, Farrakhan said.

"We share common problems, we share a common destiny," Farrakhan said. "I did not come here as a stranger; I am your kith, I am your kin."

The minister briefly spoke of racial violence though not addressing Farmington and he said the outside communities will always look down on a people they consider inferior. The Navajo need to take strong steps to resolve that perception, he added.

"You cannot defeat racism by picketing. Marching is okay I'm not saying it isn't but marching won't win respect," Farrakhan said. In response to the recent violence against Navajos in Farmington the tribal council is planning a protest march.

Dependency destroys
The American Indian and the black man have failed when it comes to producing their own necessities. They depend on the government, or private companies to provide all they need. Both races need to become self-reliant, he said.

"I saw Basha's here, I saw other supermarkets where's yours?" Farrakhan asked. "Nobody is going to respect a people who aren't producing."

Only about five percent of businesses in Navajoland are native owned; that means most of the money spent leaves the reservation, Farrakhan said. The Navajo are not a poor people, because they have land, Farrakhan said. "Having land is better than having a dollar," he said. "Don't tell me your environment is hostile, because your fathers, your ancestors conquered the environment."

"America should be ashamed," Farrakhan said. After taking most of the native's land taking the coal and oil, and anything valuable it not only failed to keep promises and treaties, but allow the natives to live today without electricity and running water.

Farrakhan visited with President Joe Shirley Jr. and several delegates, bringing with him other high-ranking members of the Nation of Islam, including his wife of 53 years and the wife of the Nation of Islam founder, the Honorable Wallace D. Muhammed.

Once a protegee of Malcolm X, Farrakhan became a vocal critic after Malcolm X broke from the Nation, shortly before his 1965 murder at the hands of three Muslim men.

Delegate responds to Farrahkan
It's time for the Navajo Nation to get out from under the yoke of U.S. oppression, open the doors to foreign trade, set up its own banking system and become self-sufficient, according to Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Bennie Shelly.

He sees a budding relationship with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as a means to meet that end.

Shelly said he, several delegates, and Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. met with Farrakhan at 3 p.m. Tuesday after the Navajo Nation Council recessed for the day.

"I was very curious to know who he was. I didn't know him. All I knew about him is that he was the head of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., back in 1995. But the more I got to know him, the man's pretty good. He's real smart. He's enough in the higher echelon within the black organization, he would be up in the area of Martin Luther King Jr. capacity," Shelly said.

"He has a large organization, he's well known, has traveled the world, talks about human rights and talks about how minorities should support each other in unity mostly just trying to tell us as Navajo Native Americans that as a minority, you are pressed to a master.

"We're being controlled by the master so that we should not advance. How they do that is by trying to suppress us, keep us low not have us go get higher education, prevent us from doing that and things like economic development and self-sufficiency," Shelly said.

Farrakhan was impressed with the size of Navajoland and pointed out to Navajo leaders how rich they are by having a 27,000-square-mile land base.

"Even though we don't have everything, we have land that we live on. The land never loses its value; the dollar does. I think purchasing land and expanding our land gives us more sovereignty and also more ability to achieve our goal to be self-sufficient in every area. He talked about, and I kind of like that," Shelly said.

Farrakhan also was talking Shelly's language when he spoke of finance, "mainly because of the Budget and Finance Committee that we are, the authority that we have, and the concern that we have for our Nation's finance."

Dictating Navajo future
Shelly said Farrakhan spoke of banks in the United States vs. foreign countries, and how they support each other. He said Farrakhan's organization finances through its own banks, "which are black established banking systems that they have all over the world, similar to the Arabs. The Arabs, the Chinese, they have their own banks and they borrow money and they also return money.

"Like the Arabians that we have here: They never utilize the United States' banks. They have their own banks in foreign countries and they borrow and generate and support each other in that way.

"In that case, he's telling us to keep the money on the reservation. I think that's the key thing that we need to do. We need to develop economic development and start dealing with foreign countries.

"If the local U.S. (government) can't deal with us, then we should reach out and deal with foreign countries to be self-sufficient, get on our feet, and dictate our own future," Shelly said.
Farrakhan also spoke of foreign trade, "that there should be no restriction to come to the Navajo Nation to create trade and do business with a foreign country," Shelly said.

He also talked of the elderlies [sic], the youth, and the middle-age [sic], that they need to be more positive, more proactive in the area of development, and more aware of what's around them, "that we need to build our Nation as leaders, and also we need to look at the future and think about the future of our young people."

What's in it for me?
Shelly said he believes the Navajo Nation Council is lacking in leadership. "We don't have unity. The problem with the Navajo Nation Council is a 'what's-in-it-for-me' type thing. 'If there's nothing in it for me, I don't support it.' We have always practiced that in our council. I see that a lot in here and I complain about that," he said.

One example he cited was legislation introduced in council that pertains to emergency needs, such as Tuba City's jail facility.

"They're closing that down, and here is legislation asking for $94,000 to get that facility on track and keep it going. This council voted it down. So that just tells me, 'That's in Tuba City, why should I support this?'

That's the kind of concept we have in the council. We need to stop doing that. We need to support each other, no matter where it's from, if it's going to benefit the people. I think it's something that we haven't learned yet," Shelly said.

"What this man is telling us is that you have one project that you need to support, no matter what area it is in.

"This man, to me, is a person that came from the outside, looking at us. He gave us a piece of his mind on what we need to do. The end result is this man is here for real, and I think we do need to get to know them and get support."

Beneficial partnership
"I think the Navajo Nation needs a partner, and we do need a partner that has gone through whatever the ordeal if it's racism, if it's economic, if it's property, if it's poorness. Whatever it is that they went through, they have the experience. They have gone through all of this hardship, and we're going through it. They will give us the technical advice."

Shelly said he believes the Navajo Nation can partner with Farrakhan's organization. "We can learn a lot from them. They can guide us through what needs to be done," he said.

"One of the things that I notice, that is really standing out, is that we are controlled. The Navajo Nation is controlled through the Code of Federal Regulations, through federal grants, external funds.

"The federal government acts like a father and we're the children. They treat us like we have to depend on them all the time. I think the bottom line is we've grown up now. We need to get on our own, to get away from our parents. I think that's what we really need to work on."

Shelly expressed great admiration for Farrakhan. "He kind of gave us some new light, some new hope that there are some people out there that have gone through these experiences and are willing to help."

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