A Brief Organizational History
Diné is word by which the Navajo people refer to themselves. It means, roughly, “the people.” We are a membership organization by and for the Diné, the People. We do not collect dues or run membership drives. Our work is mostly sponsored by foundation grants. Our members are not only those who are leaders in their communities, but all those Diné who strive to maintain a relationship with Mother Earth based on balance and harmony. For us, membership means taking up the cause of honoring our Earth, and honoring the perspective toward Mother Earth that has been handed down to us from our ancestors. We are local, community people working together on issues that affect our communities.
Some of our successes include:
• In 1988, we formed to defend our first community of Dilkon, in the Southwestern portion of the Navajo Nation, from the threat of a toxic waste and incinerator and dump. After our Tribal government had already approved the dump and told us we were powerless to stop it, we educated ourselves and our community, organed and put a stop to the toxic waste plans.
• In the late 1980s we led a march on the New Mexico state capitol in a successful bid to press for the reform of alcohol sales in reservation border towns. We have been active in substance abuse counseling and reform.
• In 1990, we co-founded the Indigenious Environmental Network.
• In 1991, we defended the community of Huerfano, NM and our sacred mountain Dzil B Nä oodil Bii from a proposed asbestos dump. The dump ws on its way to approval by the New Mexico land use board when we rallied community and Tribal support opposition. Ultimately, the company planning to dump there removed their proposal.
• In 1994, after years of struggle, we put a stop to reckless timber cutting in the Navajo Nation forests.
• In 1996, we started an innovative forest mapping project with the ultimate goal reforestation in the Chuska Mountains.
• In 1998 through the present, we have been involved in bringing relief victims of radiation exposure on the Navajo Nation, and in the fight to prevent furture mining. Our biggest victory so far has been the reform of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
The reality is that our people is doing this work because we have no choice anymore. Many of our traditional people are being discriminated against and exploited on their own lands, simply because their ways are not “progressive” or centered around Anglo notions of economic development. As a consequence, they have become more aware of injustices, technologies and ways of thinking that are directly impacting their families, their clans, their communities and the lands upon which they depend. It has become a struggle for the survival of the People as a whole.
Even when it comes to simple rights that other Americans take for granted such as the right to apply for social security disability benefits if you are disabled and unable to work, our people are at a disadvantage. If a person has a physical illness or mental condition that is expected to prevent him / her from working for at least a year or that will result in death, he / she may be eligible for social security disability benefits. However the person has to present a strong case or otherwise the lengthy application process may very likely be futile. Since many of our people don’t have easy access to the internet, it becomes even more difficult to apply for benefits. In addition, up to 70% of the applicants are turned down for both the initial claim and a reconsideration where the claim is reviewed again by the Disability Determination Services (DDS). At this point many people just give up. However, if the initial claim is valid, it might be worth while to find a social security disability lawyer) who can support and guide you through an appeal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Your social security disability attorney will take care of everything for you whether it is preparing paperwork, filing forms, doing research, or personally prepping you for your hearing before a judge. A social security disability lawyer will make sure that all the deadlines are met as well as checking to make sure all files are received by the Administrative Law Judge. Finally, when your claim is approved, your lawyer will make sure you receive the proper payment from the Social Security Administration. Although the lawyer is entitled up to 25% of the benefits, you will receive 75% of monies you might never have been awarded. This is the way the system can work for many people, but it is likely a disabled Navajo would be at a more severe disadvantage. One reason Diné has grown is so that we can take care of our own people.
As a result of our successes, we have been approached by numerous Native communities, as well as non-Native communities, who faced with devastating environmental impacts. We have developed a culturally appropriate method for educating such groups, providing the opportunity for a truly indigenous method of environmental protection and alternative development strategies. We have been active in many communities, as local people access the knowledge and experience of our long-term members, coupling it with the wisdom and guidance of their elders. Local people involved in protecting their communities become partners in Diné CARE’s mission, by taking the leadership role in defending their land, proposing alternatives to outdated “development” plans, and by showing others throughout the Navajo Nation that our traditional beliefs and practices hold a tremendous amount of relevance for the problems facing today’s world.
Members of the all-Navajo Board of Directors
Adella Begaye, Wheatfields, AZ President
Earl Tulley, Blue Gap, NM Vice President
Sylvia Clahchischilli, Teec Nos Pos, AZ Secretary
Lori Goodman, Durango, CO Treasurer
Lawendra Atcitty, Bloomfield, NM
Lucille Charley, Dzilth-Naa-O-Dith-Hle, NM
Lucy Hatathli-Nez, Tuba City, AZ
McQueen Suen, Rock Point, AZ
Hazel Merritt, Aneth, UT
Anna Marie Frazier, Dilkon, AZ
Cell: (928) 308-8718
Our community-based activists often do not have direct mailing addresses. However, any inquiries, pledges or requests can be sent to:
10A Town Plaza, Suite 138
Durango, CO 81301
Telephone: (970) 259-0199
Cell: (970) 759-1908 Cell: (928) 380-7697
Fax: (970) 259-2600
Dine CARE (Main Office)
HC 63 Box 263
Winslow, AZ 86047
Telephone: (928) 309-8718
Many thanks to those who contributed to our many causes, and especially to those who provided financial support.