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.
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