Tricky fluency

 

I’m always pleased to find articles in HCN devoted to Native American issues, which is why I was glad to read a piece covering the Navajo Nation’s plight concerning language fluency and the eligibility of presidential candidates (“A question of fluency,” 12/22/14). And while the article was quite accurate in describing the now-obvious divisions among tribal voters in the debate, it failed to complete the picture of Chris Deschene’s ordeal in his second-place finish in the primary. Yes, he objected to taking a fluency test given by his opponent’s attorney. But he also, more importantly, objected to being the only one out of a field of 17 candidates to be required to take the test. Though each of these other candidates filled out the application form, checking the same box, no one but Deschene was required to submit to the test. How many others were as fluent as he but were not disqualified? Deschene’s answers during the test were the equivalent of pleading the fifth in a court of law, whereby his answer to each question was, spoken in Navajo, “I refuse to answer, because you are trying to trick me.”


Ron Pease
Aztec, New Mexico