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What Affects Cameron, Arizona Is My Concern

I am writing as a traditional Navajo, mother, veteran, Chapter house voter for Cameron and as a newly elected Arizona State Representative of Legislative District 7 (includes the confluence sacred site).

Being from Cameron, the Gap-Bodaway community members are my close relatives. What affects them is my concern and a development is irreversible. Gap-Bodaway and Cameron had always been considered one chapter until the 2011 redistricting and Council reduction.

Like many in Northern Arizona, I have read recent letters to the editor of the Navajo-Hopi Observer by former Coconino County Supervisor Yellowman and Hopi Tribal Chairman Shingoitewa.

They raise strong points as to why this should not move forward; most disturbing is disrespect of voter's right to free speech. I am thus hoping those that feel disenfranchised to have hope, seek strength, and write letters to our leaders in Western Navajo, Window Rock, the state legislatures, U.S. Congress and even the president.

Also, we can look to our brothers and sisters to the west, the Hualapai Tribe, and how the Skywalk Development has evolved into a complex, challenging and embarrassing endeavor. We should heed how that plays out for them as it will set precedence at the national level, they may lose everything to the developer. Tourism is a great industry for Native America, but in a respectful and inclusive manner that does not place developer's interest over that of the people they seek to benefit themselves from.

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I encourage our leaders to work to pursue more stable investments such as purchasing lands and businesses adjacent to the reservation borders so our people are not exploited.

We should be working with border towns, counties, the state and the greater nation to create enviro-tourism, agri-tourism, and working to hold our tribal sovereignty sacred above all. We have so many young people with vision, faith and hope to contribute to this economic expansion.

As I take part in traditional ceremonies and say daily prayers to our holy people I feel our obligation to Mother Earth has been forgotten, our prayers are fading as we forsake another site.

I humbly ask for your commitment to our sacred lands and to support our leaders to make the courageous decisions each and every day.

Jamescita Peshlakai is an Arizona State Representative, Legislative District 7, Cameron, Ariz.

This column was published originally in the Navajo Times.