Although McGrath wants to fight her grievances, she says that she is unsure of how to proceed and that there is little institutional help.
McGrath sat in front of a table covered with police reports, complaints, and documents prepared for the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission which was created to assist and investigate alleged rights abuses of Navajo Nation members committed by Native and non-Native institutions and their employees.
Current Navajo institutions are relatively new. The commission was founded in 2006, after reports of violence against Navajo in border towns.
The office of the president of the Navajo Nation was created in 1991 following a restructuring of the national Navajo government.
McGrath, Benallie and other Navajo residents of Flagstaff and Winslow, say their national Navajo leadership and institutions have a troubled history which does not inspire confidence.
Of the Navajo’s eight presidents, four have been investigated for criminal acts centring around corruption, fraud, misused funds and other charges.
Albert Hale, the Navajo Nation’s second president who served from 1995 to 1998, was the first president to resign. His resignation was spurred by his being under investigation for more than 50 felonies and misdemeanours.
“Leadership needs to understand … these are [governmental] institutions forced upon us by the colonisers. We didn’t develop these,” Hale tells Al Jazeera when asked about the Navajo people’s lack of trust in their government when it comes handling human rights abuses as well as other issues.
The former president stressed that offices such as the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and the presidency are not a part of the tribe’s history and that a Navajo “sense of justice” is lacking.
Hale has also served more than a decade in the Arizona legislature and US Congress. He left the state legislature in 2017 after losing re-election for Arizona’s seventh district.
During his long tenure in what he called the “coloniser’s institutions”, Hale said that he tried to educate both the Navajo and his colleagues in state and national government about the struggles and contributions of Native people.
‘We have the numbers’
Hale has experienced his own loss at the hands of the police. In 1952, when he was a toddler, his father was arrested by police in Gallup, New Mexico, another border town. He was missing for several days.
“My mother didn’t even know where he was,” he says. “Then they found him in the morgue.”
Hale believes his father was beaten to death by police while in custody, although this was never confirmed.
Hale’s mother “was left to struggle, to find ways to support the family” and raise four children.
He empathises with Tsingine’s child.
“Police violence doesn’t end with the victim. It extends out,” Hale says, and police “have to be made aware of that.”
The FBI announced a pilot programme in 2016 to track deadly use of force by law enforcement, but as of yet, no information is publicly available regarding the initiative.
Hale says institutional powers like the police must be educated about cultural differences and the economic and cultural importance of Native people.
Benallie, on the other hand, believes a united approach between marginalised peoples – Latino, black and Native – must be employed to end oppression.
“We must unite to smash these structures that continue to murder us,” Benallie says. “We have the numbers, in the end, to make that a reality.”
Follow Creede Newton on Twitter: @creedenewton
Source: Al Jazeera News