Senator Kyl and staff deceive public

The following letter was written by Dr. Adrienne Ruby, a veterinarian who has worked on the Navajo and Hopi reservations since 1991. In her letter she argues that Senator Kyl and his staff deceived the public and misrepresented the Navajo people with the water hauling photograph that they used to introduce SB 2109 before Congress. Although Kathy Helms wrote a story about this issue in the Gallup Independent on May 22, 2012, Ruby’s recent letter provides additional context to the photograph and demonstrates yet one more level of deception surrounding this legislation.

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To the honorable members of Congress and other interested parties:

I have watched the video of Senator Kyl presenting Senate Bill 2109 to Congress February 15 of this year.  In this video there is a large picture mounted on an easel behind the senator. The picture shows a horse team hitched to a wagon filled with water barrels at a hand pump well.  This picture sets the tone to his speech and reinforces his words, “Legally the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribes may assert to larger qualities of water but as you can see here they don’t have the means to make use of the supply in a safe and productive manner.”

The picture could be out of a history book but it isn’t. It was taken in September 2011 at the Seba Dalkai hand pump well.  It was probably the first time in 50 years that a horse drawn wagon had pulled up to that pump to fill up with water. What an opportune moment for the Senator’s staff to drive by!

The picture is not what it seems, it looks like a Navajo family filling water barrels for home use – it is a picture that brings images of an impoverished and backwards culture. In fact, the wagon and team were owned by me – a white woman. I have lived and worked on the Navajo and Hopi reservations since 1991 providing veterinary services. The wagon is recreational. In the picture I am accompanied by two Navajo friends – both are well educated and politically aware. We are on our way from my home near Seba Dalkai to Birdsprings where we are to meet up with the Ranch Ride (a revival trail ride) and continue on to the foothills of the San Francisco Peaks. We are filling the water barrels for our team.

We visited with the Senator’s staff at the water well and had a great time joking around and taking pictures. It’s not so funny now. We were used badly, the picture is a lie. The staff was aware that the wagon was recreational yet used this picture in a very different context.

The message is not only inaccurate but is degrading as well. I want to set the record straight, this is not how Navajo people live today.

Dr. Adrienne Ruby

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8 Responses to “Senator Kyl and staff deceive public”


  1. 1 Jean Mendoza June 16, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Thanks, Matt, for following this story.

  2. 3 feminineocean June 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    This was a great article to read and shows the total duplicity of Kyle and his likes. I’m so happy about the Tribal Council vote. Kyle thought he could slip something past the Hopi and Navajo, and his use of the photo shows he thinks the people are stupid. They’ve been trying for almost 500 years to destroy the original holders of this land and we know they will never succeed.

  3. 5 Alejandro De La Garza June 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Kyl & McCain must still think this is 1912, when Indians & Hispanics had virtually no political power. That’s what happens when you watch too many John Wayne movies & believe Ronald Reagan is a god. Hello! Wake up, old men! This is the 21st century, and you can’t just do whatever you want to other people anymore. Things are different now. I don’t know what it will take for them to figure that out, but we can’t give up the fight either way.

  4. 6 Tulley Haswood June 18, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Yes spread the word; people equal to the likes of Kyl and McCain are no longer effective in their efforts to take and do what they want with the first Natives of this land. At the Nabikeyateeh committee mtg last Friday; several Navajo council members commented “its time we stand up for ourselves and stop allowing the bilaganas telling us what to do” when they voted against 2109. I appreciate Hopis and Navajos standing together on this issue.

  5. 7 Tulley Haswood June 18, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Correction on my earlier comment; I included an extra word “the” after the word “Yes”.

    • 8 Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert June 18, 2012 at 10:55 am

      No problem, Tulley! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m pretty sure I can go back and edit the extra “the”s out of your comment. Yes, I absolutely agree: “it’s time we stand up for ourselves…”…..AND WE DID!


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© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the author

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is enrolled with the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Moencopi in northeastern Arizona. He is an associate professor of American Indian Studies & History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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A Second Wave of Hopi Migration (History of Education Quarterly, August 2014)

Sun Chief: An Autobiography of A Hopi Indian by Don C. Talayesva, New foreword by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert (Sept. 2013)

Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912 (Western Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2012). Winner of Spur Award for Best Western Short Nonfiction, Western Writers of America (2013)

“Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930″, American Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 1, March Issue 2010 (Click image to download article)

Hopi runner Philip Zeyouma’s trophy cups featured on cover of American Quarterly

Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929 (University of Nebraska Press, 2010)

Education beyond the Mesas – Introduction (click image to download)

“‘The Hopi Followers': Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909″, Journal of American Indian Education, (Click image to download article)

The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images From Sherman Institute (Oregon State University Press, 2012)

Arizona English Teachers Association highlights Hopi authors (click image to download)

Constitution and Bylaws of the Hopi Tribe (With all amendments, click to download)

Click to listen to KUYI On-Line

Matt’s Goodreads

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