Horse advocate Leland Grass says horse roundups are un-Navajo

Leland Grass, Dine' traditionalist, in front of the Navajo Council chamber on July 21, 2014, as part of a group of horseback riders from across the Navajo Reservation that opposed horse roundups and proposed range land management laws. Grass presented on "Save the Navajo horse" with several other individuals during the Navajo Nation horse conference at the Twin Arrows Casino & Resort on Aug. 16, 2014. Photo by Marley Shebala. (Please provide proper photo credit when reusing photo.)

Leland Grass, Dine’ traditionalist, in front of the Navajo Council chamber on July 21, 2014, as part of a group of horseback riders from across the Navajo Reservation that opposed horse roundups and proposed rangeland management laws. Grass presented on “Save the Navajo horse” with several other individuals during the Navajo Nation horse conference at the Twin Arrows Casino & Resort on Aug. 16, 2014. Photo by Marley Shebala. (Please provide proper photo credit when reusing photo.)

I’m here at Navajo Nation horse conference at Twin Arrows Casino & Resort, which started yesterday, Aug. 15, and ends today, Aug. 16.

This presentation is “Save the Navajo Horse” by Leland Grass, Dine’ traditionalist from the Betatakin Canyon area of Arizona, south of Navajo National Monument. He is the youngest Ho’ya’nee’ (vigilant one) for the 12 traditional Headsmen Council of Nahooka Dine.

my name is Leland Grass. i am from shonto ariz. and i don’t support democrats, republicans, independent. my parents taught me traditional way of life. my parents also taught me Ke’. i am here to talk on behalf of horses.

we are having numerous healing ceremonies back home. horses sustain life. that is what grandparents taught me. and the people are asking about what the chapters/local government are doing. i’m glad you are standing up for rights of horses and you stand for traditions of horses.

the federal policies are coming from outside but you need to talk from traditional point of view. we met at black mesa about a year ago. i have songs/prayers for horses and i don’t talk about them in public. my dad taught me about horses. i will be running panel today. it has been going on for several years, this discussion about horses.

our traditional teachings is that leaders shud be picked by own people not federal government. they ask me to represent people on behalf of horses. my comrades/frens are home, some are here. and we teach traditions. when you hear story, you give them gift in return.

so couple of weeks ago we went to Window Rock to talk about horse roundups. the men, women, grandparents don’t agree with roundups and confiscation of horses. it is not right. so we wrote resolution to advocate for horses. we think and plan in traditional way. horses were abused during roundups. we believe in horses because way of life.

i have traveled so far on this journey to advocate for horses and i lost a fren and i cried.

and also i don’t really go to the chapters for assistance. i stay home and i sustain myself, my own self determination. i really don’t speak english and feel much confident using navajo language. i teach in navajo language because parents taught me that way.

the way the horses are rounded up is negative, abusive and not navajo way. we don’t support horse roundups and abuse of horses.

elders don’t go to chapters. here is resolution that i wrote. when i presented my resolution, the navajo people at chapter supported resolution. and i asked that resolution be read in navajo for the benefit of elders that understand navajo. the vote was 24 in favor, 18 opposed. they know how to manipulate votes. chapter people think that i wud take horses on my own behalf and that is untrue. i would not do that. this resolution does not have my name. i told them to read resolution.

but then Shonto knocked down this resolution opposing horse roundups.

last year i went to horse roundup and this is film we did. it was about a lady who had her horses taken. i am the middle man, the peace maker. and when news reporter showed up, the horses were released.

and this trailer was seen in Los Lunas and is used to take horses to slaughter houses.

he shows sign that says “cash for animal” and “if you want to sell your cattle and horses, contact buyers in Montecello, Utah”

the roundup people intimidate local people. it’s not right.

talking about ATVs. Grass shows a photo of the ATV tracks and how it destroyed roots of plants. He also shows video of a person on an ATV chasing a horse that he estimated was traveling at about 45 miles an hour. He said that the horse was chased for two hours and looked exhausted. He also showed photos of a foal that was left behind after its mother was rounded up.

Johanna – (there is a photo of a young boy with a photo of him sitting on a horse, his horse.) His horse was rounded up. His mother said that her son stutters and does not talk that much. but he would talk to his horse. he speaks navajo language. his horse was in a corral. a grandmother asked me why i don’t talk to her. she asked me if it was because i don’t speak navajo. and now i speak more navajo and i speak on behalf of my people and against horse roundup and for equine therapy which provides positive healing. i don’t have much money. but i try to help family with what money i have. i have horse that is around house and so why do i have to have grazing permit when horse stays by house and i feed it and water it. my son would ask his horse to show his teeth and the horse would show his teeth. my son constantly asks for his horse and asks to find his horse. he is sad. he feels the loss. that is why i am here. we wanted to buy a therapy horse and we were told we needed $22,000. but we were able to find a horse from our family lineage.

DAVID BEGAY – There is no moisture on the Navajo reservation. maybe it’s because of the burning of fossil fuels, acid rain, sulfur dioxide, mercury and other dangerous elements in the air. that is the reason behind no moisture and climate change and pollution.

horses are made from sun rays and rainbows. eyes are made from star dust.

i raise horses. i take care of horses. i’m a rancher. they chased horse eight miles with ARVs and horse was pregnant. i took horse to veterinarian before it collapsed and died. the veterinarian said the mare died because of horse roundup. i have grazing permit and i showed permit to rangers, who ignored me and kept rounding up my horses. they are very disrespectful. the regulations state how horse are rounded up. horses are injured in the eyes and foot.

LARRISON MANYGOATS of Coalmine Canyon – i have program, non-profit, that is for veterans. our motto is in order to save lives, we have to work for free. i am not asking for money. I ask for donations involving supplies. our goal is to build service code for these therapy horses, like dogs. Native American Re-Conditioning Center is name of program. We recondition horses and return to elders. WE also have youth horse program. we can give you cutting horses, race horses. facility not finished and so we travel from location to location.

SARAH – you are here because you are worried about livestock. time goes by and the whiteman is ruled by time but us, navajos, when we have problem, we are here and not dictated by time. we need to talk, discuss like a family. we need to work together. my children, my grandchildren, i am worried about horse roundups. we are elderly and think of livestock like our own family. we vote for leaders. all of us have minds, thinking process. what is going on in Window Rock? what are they doing to our livelihood? we get money for our livestock, horses. the elected officials have become enemies to the people. we had horse that was gentle and it was rounded up in April. i cried. all we have are our saddles. we buy grain. we lost all our money. someone was talking about this yesterday in shiprock about free hay and it was untrue. we feed our own horses from our own pockets. when you go to chapter to buy hay, they ask for our grazing permit and that is not right. chapter officials have money and make rules that make no sense. chapter people, rodeo people abuse animals and now animals are being rounded up and taken away. fix it. i am not saying bad things toward you. long time ago, life tough and now it is too easy. we were told to herd sheep and now it is not that way. i am glad elders told us to live good hard life. we were told by elders to take care of our livestock. i wasn’t paid to be here. i am here with my own money. Leland helped us with words and resolutions.

we use the horse in many ways – transportation. Horse is rain. The tail is rain trail. eyes are big constellation. tip of ear is to see at night. when girl, i looked for horses and i brought them home. i rode horses.

JR LESTER of White Cone, Ariz. – horse roundup is complex but solution is we need to take our community back. and grazing officials shouldn’t work against people. we need to involve community in livestock management. we need to quantify water. we need to work with chapter officials and grazing committees.

grazing officials tell people that they are obstacles of progress.

LELAND GRASS – i want to ask tribal agriculture department and tribal rangers, why no funds from Bureau of Indian Affairs was provided to grazing officials.

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