To the editor:
Your article on Nov. 13 entitled "Education opening doors for Indians?" by Jerry Spangler contained a number of serious omissions. These omissions allow the reader to view the San Juan County Navajo student in a most unfavorable light. As college-educated Native Americans and practicing professionals, we feel compelled to protest and set the record straight.The statement that the San Juan County School District has spent $24 million on reservation school buildings makes it sound like the district has real concern for Navajo students. In fact, the district built those schools under Judge Aldon J. Anderson's 1975 court order. The suit was brought by a large number of concerned reservation Navajo parents.
At the time of the suit, the district had no bonded indebtedness and the potential to issue $6.2 million in bonds based on the assessed valuation. Why is the assessed valuation so high? Because oil had been discovered on the Navajo reservation in what is known as the Aneth Field. Texaco's Navajo Well #1 was the most productive well in Utah's history, producing more than 254 million barrels. The school district became wealthy over its ability to tax the riches located on the Navajo's land for 20 years and refused to use that wealth to promote Indian education. The district had to be court-ordered to do so and remains to this day under a variety of other provisions in the order.
CEU-Blanding also appears in this article as an institution that has been compassionate toward the need for Indian education. In fact, CEU-Blanding has received funds from the Utah Navajo Oil Royalty Trust Fund for more than 15 years. This trust was established by a 1933 Act of Congress, House Bill 11735, to set aside lands for Navajos in Utah, and it provided that 37.5 percent of the royalty on minerals there would be preserved for the benefit of the San Juan County Navajos.
The Utah Division of Indian Affairs has continued to appropriate vast sums of trust money to CEU-Blanding without expecting much in the way of results for San Juan County Navajos. Last year's appropriation alone was more than $307,000. One would think that in 15 years, this school could produce someone who was qualified to work in San Juan County business or government employment.
The fact that employment is not forthcoming for Navajos in San Juan County is proof that the trust is not being managed to the best advantage of the beneficiaries.
San Juan County Navajo parents put a high value on education. To portray them as uneducated and uncaring perpetuates a racial stereotype which cannot be tolerated. If these parents have problems with sending their children to school, these problems are not related to the parents' view of the value of education. Instead, the problems arise when families are forced to live in extreme poverty, without adequate housing, running water, utilities, disease, and with inadequate food, and virtually no employment. The fact that they live on some of the most oil-rich land in the West adds insult to injury.
Utah State Social Services
Salt Lake City School District Administration