San Juan County: The Mexican Water Town Meeting, Featuring Mark Maryboy and Grandma Betty

On August 22, 2019, a town hall-style meeting was held in Mexican Water, Utah. The gathering was open to all citizens of San Juan County and it was attended by the county’s three commissioners, Kenneth Maryboy, Willie Grayeyes and Bruce Adams.

San Juan County, Utah has been a vortex of controversy and heated debate these past few years, but there had been some hope that this meeting might provide a platform to discuss those issues that are of concern to both Native Americans and Anglos. Some even thought it might be civil. But the meeting quickly devolved into a shouting match, with accusations and hurtful words flying in all directions.

(NOTE: Kate Groetzinger offered this even-handed account of the meeting for public radio station KUER in Salt Lake City: Accusations Are Flying in San Juan County, Amid Calls To Change The County Government )

Since then, many partisans on each side have simply refused to believe the quotes, regardless of which “side” of the debate they came from. Then The Zephyr learned that an audio recording had been made during the meeting and that it was subsequently posted on the internet.

We decided to go a step further and transcribe the entire dialogue as it played out in Mexican Water. Since much of the conversation is spoken in Navajo, we recruited a San Juan resident who is fluent in both English and Navajo to translate the Navajo-speaking sections. 

But please note, it was extremely difficult to find even one person to perform this very difficult task. And since I don’t speak Navajo, I’m asking that if anyone reading the account hears something and thinks it doesn’t precisely match our translation, let us know. I have absolute confidence in our translation, but the room was noisy and people were talking over each other, and honest mistakes could have occurred…We did our best.

— Jim Stiles

Mexican Water

Kenneth Maryboy: He (Mark) will talk to us about a policy book.

Mark Maryboy: (In Navajo) Thank you, I asked to be placed 1st on the agenda because I am going into town with my grandson. 

(In English) I appreciate (inaudible “two gentlemen”?) for putting me on the agenda. That’s the number 1. As you look at the agenda, it says Utah (inaudible), but I will cover three other issues regarding this agenda.

(In Navajo) This, what is written in the agenda is Water, is what I was asked to talk about. But I am going to talk about 3 things. Four items I will address.

(In English) The first issue I want to talk about is the Bears Ears National Monument.

(In Navajo) The Bears Ears National Monument, this ongoing discussion about Bears Ears, it is still in the courts. It will be addressed sometime in the future. The Salt Lake Mormons want this to go to SLC. They want it to be in the District of Columbia.

Mark Maryboy, c/o CBC

(In English) Regarding Bears Ears National Monument, it is in litigation at this point in time. The only thing that has happened is the state of Utah has asked the court to move the court from the District of Columbia to Salt Lake but that was denied. In our opinion, that’s a plus because Utah is not a friend of the Utah Navajos or Native Americans. They’re a racist state. And then, we don’t know when that court hearing will take place. But I must tell each and every Navajo to make sure you register and vote and continue to vote Democrat. We’re very hopeful that the House will be majority Democrat next year The Senate will be majority Democrat. And the President will be a new President instead of the idiot that’s in there right now. We honestly believe that (uncle?) Joe Biden will be the new President next year. And when that happens, for sure Bears Ears National Monument will be reinstated. That’s the report on Bears Ears.

(In Navajo) This discussion on Bears Ears, work hard on it. The Mormons (inaudible) our children …It is prepared for us. A year from now the Democrats will win. The democrats will win the Senate and the House of Representatives. And our current President, the one called Donald J. Trump. He is crazy, everyday. This morning he said, “I am now God.” That is what he said about himself. Whose friend would say such a thing. A year from now, vote against him. Vote for Joe Biden.

(In English) That’s the extent of my report on the Bears Ears. The other ones I want to talk about is BLM. The local BLM office in Monticello is very aggressive in pursuing the idiot Donald Trump’s initiative. We have to protest everything they do and make sure that they don’t do what they plan to do like recreation vehicles, chaining. Those are the things that we don’t want to see happen in Monticello and Blanding especially. Also, the new advisory council (MAC) have come out with a plan and those advisory council are not a friend of the environment. They are pro-uranium, pro-oil and gas, pro-potash and we also need to protect that.

There’s two Navajos in there and I would call them tame Indians. They just follow around and try to get favors from the Mormons in Blanding and Monticello. Those guys need to be put a stop to.

(In Navajo) “The BLM office …are extremely interested in the land. The Caucasians from Monticello want to rake the land so bikers can ride on it. Chaining, 2 bulldozers go side by side with a chain dragged on the ground, plowing the land is what they are doing. How we think about it is, land should not be treated in this way. Therefore, we are speaking up and complaining about it.

And the one called the Secretary of the Interior, they have put Navajos and Caucasians in place who are anti-environment. Ryan Benally is his name and from Aneth Chapter, Albert Ben is his name. They want to destroy the land. They want drilling and oil. However, what they want will not come to pass because many people are against it. That is what I will speak about. How we feel about it is, we do not support it.” 

(In English) “The other issue I want to talk about is oil and gas (inaudible??) by the industry. This is something that the Navajos have opposed for many years because they had a bad experience with the Aneth/Montezuma Creek oil field. It’s more of a curse than a blessing. Most of the money goes to the State of Utah and the local people never benefit. The only benefit the Navajos receive is contaminated water, contaminated soil, and the toxic material in the air. Recent days…(inaudible) oil and gas is making an attempt to do some more drilling in San Juan County. I oppose this, however, there’s some Navajos from McCracken Mesa who support the white Mormons in Blanding and Monticello. Maybe they like oil and gas development on McCracken Mesa.

(In Navajo) This is how it is. Those who study oil and drill are extremely attacking the land. For those who live in Montezuma Creek and Aneth, they have ruined our land. Where the water streams flow, a lot of them are contaminated. And when the wind blows, it really stinks. Now they are now talking about it in Monticello, digging.

(In English) McCracken Mesa, a reservation, and the Navajo Nation does not have the soft surface.

(In Navajo) In McCracken Mesa, even though it is a reservation, {the Navajo Nation does not have the subsurface rights} living on the land is all the Navajos have power over. What is in the earth, they have no rights over. That is what interests the residents of Monticello.

They say they want to dig on McCracken Mesa. To give a firm “no” is difficult because the residents on McCracken Mesa are with the Mormons, they are extremely loyal to them. They like their Mormon leaders. So my younger brother who is the County Commissioner, he has the ability to represent, when they talk about it in Monticello he should talk about it. And those who like it, like those in McCracken Mesa, may be okay with digging, it will be good to talk about this. If the people can discuss and explore and walk around saying, “this is not ok.” But they are not filling out the
paperwork, only we (understandable) we have not seen any application turned in. Be aware of this.

(In English) “The next subject I’m going to talk about is there’s a new petition going around to amend, further amend the San Juan County government.  Yesterday, or two days ago, there was a hearing in Bluff and a lot of people spoke to the issue. How many times do we have to go through this?

(In Navajo) “The last topic I would like to discuss is this: those of us who live here, we recently had an election where 2 Navajos were selected to representatives. The Caucasian are not happy about this. They do not like that they only have 1 Caucasians representative. They are complaining and are petitioning and gathering names. The County Commissioners meeting, they want multiple Caucasians representatives and this is what they are discussing. This was recently discussed so many talked about their dislike of their under-representation. 

The people who came from Blanding and Monticello, they are extremely pleased with the petition and want to make it happen. That is why I am telling you, this name gathering, when it comes to election in the month of November, they may be putting this on the ballot. For that reason, if we do not have many prepared, we will lose again. That is why we need to tell/share with each other. For some Navajos, they are uninformed, they do not have a strong mind. They are like little children. When the Caucasians tell them “it is like this,” they follow… says, “They are the ones who were tamed by the Caucasians.” We have some like that among us. Even though this is the case….

(In English) The other issue that I want to talk about is to reform the government again. And here again, this initiative is being driven by the white people, the white Mormons, racist Mormons from Blanding and Monticello, redneck Mormons that are worse than the people down south. They’re probably all a member of the Klu Klux Klan. They hate Navajos.

Wendy Black: Ok, you went too far, Mark. That’s enough.

Unidentified woman: I agree.

Mark Maryboy : (In Navajo) I am talking here. Sit down.

Kenneth Maryboy : (In Navajo) Wait. Let’s let him talk and we will make time for you to talk at the end.

April Charley
April Charley

April Charley : (In English) Ok, but the only thing I’m asking, as any concerned citizen would, is that these comments be kept at a reasonable level. Being a racist, sitting there saying that other people are racist…

Mark Maryboy: (In English) I’m asked to do a report. Sit down, let me finish.

Unidentified woman: (In Navajo) Quiet, quiet, let’s listen.

Mark Maryboy: (In Navajo) I am talking here. Sit down. It probably is painful if you are loyal to the Caucasians. This that I am talking about, the petition which I am talking about.

Grandma Betty
Grandma Betty

Grandma Betty: (In Navajo) This. I am going to talk to you about what has happen from the beginning. Stay seated so I can share with you what I know. What you are talking about is not factual.

Unidentified woman (possibly Wendy, to Mark): If you’re gonna say this, say it in English so they can hear it.

Mark Maryboy: (In Navajo) This what I am talking about, the petition I am talking about.

April Charley: (In English) But that has nothing to do with any one person.

Mark Maryboy: (In English) What do you mean one person, it has a lot to do with everybody.

April Charley: (In English) You don’t know who started the initiative.

Grandma Betty: (to Mark in Navajo) Do not say that. You are suppose to help us, that is why you were made to be our leader.

Unidentified woman: (In Navajo) Stop it everyone. Let’s do it right.

Mark Maryboy: (In Navajo) I am not a leader.

Woman: (In Navajo) Here, let’s do it correctly.

Kenneth Maryboy: (In Navajo) From here, let’s let him talk.

Mark Maryboy: (In English) Let me finish my report and then you can have your outburst. Anyway, this initiative is driven by the 30% solid supporters of Donald Trump. It’s what it is.

Grandma Betty (in Navajo) “Donald Trump is a person who has helps us.”

Grandma Betty

Mark Maryboy: (In English) And if it gets on the ballot, it’s going to go down in defeat. And it’s just going to be another example of an initiative that was driven by people, the Blacks, the Shumways, the Lymans, and
all of the (inaudible – idiot or imbred?) Navajos …(inaudible – by finding the real guys?)

Grandma Betty: (In Navajo) For this reason, I have been to Washington, DC. I know.

Mark Maryboy: (In Navajo) What are you saying? You are speaking crazy. Stop, I am trying to talk here.

Grandma Betty: (In Navajo) You, while you all were here, we begged and pleaded.

April Charley: (In English) You’re downgrading your Elders!

Kenneth Maryboy: (in Navajo) Stop, let’s let him tell us what he wants to say. Let us listen to him.

Unidentified Woman to Mark: (In English) You wouldn’t be sitting there if she begged you.

Another woman: (In Navajo) well she’s speaking at the wrong way/turn.

Mark Maryboy: (In Navajo) Wait, I am telling you from here. I am trying to talk here.

grandma betty
Grandma Betty

Grandma Betty: (In Navajo) Be quiet. You do not know. You do not know the full story.

Woman: (in Navajo) Wait, he is talking. Everyone sit still. Stop saying what you are saying. Wait, let us listen to him and after you can say what you want.

April Charley: (In Navajo) He is criticizing us and saying stuff to us.

Grandma Betty: (In Navajo) Yes/ok.

Another lady: (In Navajo) Yes.

Mark Maryboy: (In English) She is telling stories, let us listen to her. I guess she is talking to us. Wait, let me speak first and then you will have a turn to speak.

(In Navajo) This is what they say. This is how they follow the Caucasians. This what I am talking about. It is important that you vote.

Grandma Betty: (In Navajo) Our vote we have. We have filled out our vote. You, the Navajo Tribe has nothing. They do not have a vote.

Mark Maryboy: (In English) It’s very important that you vote on the initiative on the ballot.

(In Navajo) Do something about her. Those who are speaking out of turn. Calm down, calm down, calm down.

Unidentified Woman: (In Navajo) If people talk this way, there should be a request made for law enforcement. This is my first time coming.

Kenneth Maryboy
Kenneth Maryboy

Kenneth Maryboy: (In Navajo) Yes, let us let him finish talking to us. Then we will make time for you to comment. But first, listen.

Mark Maryboy: (English) “So, it’s very important that everybody vote and protest idiot petitioners so Navajos will continue to be in office for years and years and years. The white people were majority county commissioners, and Navajos never complained, never said anything. And now there’s some change and there’s an unrest, a constant unrest, in Blanding and Monticello. If they don’t like the Navajos, all I can say is go back to Missouri, where you came from. This whole entire land belongs to the Navajos. That’s the current situation. So that’s the issue on the initiative.

(In Navajo) “There is a lot of contention (regarding the initiative). How will they hold onto it. They think Navajos are dumb. They go around with the Navajo people. Just a few minutes ago, you heard, they sounded like barking dogs. (Inaudible) This is how it is.

Woman: (In Navajo) Just like you!

Mark Maryboy: (In Navajo) That is the way it is. So the last thing I would like to talk about is…

(In English) “I want to talk about water rights of Navajo Nation.

Woman: (In Navajo) It is terrible, how could you really hate the Navajo people?

Mark Maryboy: (In Navajo) It is almost approved. It has been discussed at the White House in Washington D.C. It was really talked about. It was going to be approved by Congress/Senator, but the tribe who resides in Phoenix, they had their own initiative in place for water. There were some differences in the initiatives. So, it made it difficult for our initiative.

But now we move ours forward. This is for your information. The Utah Navajo Water Rights is what they call it. So, here (in Utah) we have studied where the water pipes would be in Aneth and Montezuma Creek, Red Mesa, Oljato, and Navajo Mountain. We just want you to be aware of this. So, thank you for listening to me up to this point. And, my friend, a chapter official from Oljato has come to be with us. 

Also, I forgot to tell you about road work. It has been many years, it
has not been neglected. Back then I was the only Navajo sitting with people. They were opposed to road improvements. Now, it is the 638 project which is being worked on today. It would be good if you can work well with the County Government. It will be good to improve the roads.

Mark maryboy
Mark Maryboy. Source: Medium

Those roads have national standards to abide by. When they talk about the national standard, it means for every mile worked on, it costs $1 million. The base is 4 inch and the gravel is on top probably another 2 inch. This national standard is based on New York City’s high traffic roads.

(In English) The way it’s going to be–the national standard. A national standard, 1 mile is 1 million dollars; that’s how much it cost to build a road. Basically 4 inch gravel (inaudible). Even if the national standards of roads in New York City (inaudible)…the county government or the Navajo Nation should develop its own standard, so the cost on the road should be $50,000 a mile vs $1 million a mile. I think that should be the goal. That way you build more roads. As far as I know, there’s 10,000 miles of road on the Navajo Nation. Out of that 10,000, only 2,000 miles of road is paved. So we need to do the best we can to pave more roads . So 8,000 more miles.

(In Navajo) It would be good for us to make all the roads paved. The County Commissioners are talking about roads with the people daily, therefore, if you can work with them, that would be good.

Also, the money in the State of Utah, if it can used, it will be good. Also, there is the Trust Fund, the oil money. People really want to use those funds. 

(In English) People want to take that money. You never know. I know the trust fund (inaudible) oil money. Honestly…

(In Navajo) people want to take that money. You never know, that might happen.

Before that happens, it would be nice if you can use it. That is what I think. That is all want to say at this time.

Even though my words were harsh and painful as I spoke to you, who else would speak these words to you? No one, no one will say these to you. I think highly of the men and woman. The little children do not speak up for themselves, the children just make noise as they please.

Now you know about me. Even though some things are embarrassing and difficult, I speak to these issues. That is what I follow and spoke of today. Now I am going to Cortez with my grandson. Thank you, my Grandpa.

Kenneth Maryboy: (In Navajo) Ok, thank you. Now, what is the second item on the agenda? Larry Joe and…

Woman: (in English) Let me hear something before he leaves. Him…”

Another Woman: (in Navajo) I want to speak.

Woman: (In Navajo) Before my son leaves.

Grandma Betty: (In Navajo) He is leaving because of it.

NOTE: The transcription became difficult at this point. A lady begins to speak of the pipeline in Navajo. Another man talks back and forth in Navajo and English (about San Francisco, a pipeline in North Dakota.) He says white people are not on our side. I think that’s what’s gonna happen over here. We’re here first, Native Americans. Another man talks in Navajo about courts and D.C. and not trusting Obama.

April Charley: (In English) Now can I have my say?

Man speaks in Navajo……………..

April Charley:  First off, I heard when I was younger that you claimed that my grandpa was your dad.

Mark Maryboy: Me? Never. That’s a lie.

April Charley: The second thing is…

Mark Maryboy: I’m too good looking to be your sister.

April Charley: (sarcastically) If you’re a girl, maybe. But, throughout the years I have watched you. You have dipped into the trust fund yourself. You have stolen from the Navajo Nation. There are other stuff that are here that you don’t like mentioned.

Mark Maryboy: Give me numbers, how much from the trust fund? How much from the Navajo Nation?

(People in background talking in Navajo)……………….

April Charley: That’s what I’m going over.

(People In background talking in Navajo)……..

If that was what was said to me and—(Grandma Betty speaking in Navajo) —he wants to criticize McCracken Mesa people, yes, it is likewise.

Everything that you dish out, you have to learn how to take, or don’t say it at all. That’s how my grandpa taught the people, and my grandpa was a medicine man.

Mark Maryboy: Ok, for McCracken Mesa, do they want oil and gas? Is that what they want?

April Charley: No, you do not speak for McCracken Mesa.

Mark Maryboy: Well these people, those guys there (pointing to Wendy, Nicole, etc.) want oil and gas.

(Several people say) “you don’t speak for us!”

Wendy Black: You don’t speak for me, Mark.

April Charley: We do not want it drilled. You do not speak for us when you are not there.

Mark Maryboy: Well, we’ll see what happens.

April Charley: So, I’m asking you as a person, as a fellow Navajo, do not speak for people when you do not know the answer.

Mark Maryboy: I can believe whatever I want.

April Charley: Thus, if you’re going to sit here and be racist, at least not bring it in here…

Mark Maryboy: But they are racist.

April Charley: No, they are not.

Mark Maryboy: But they are!

Ted Black
Ted Black

Ted Black: ( to Mark) YOU are!

April Charley: This lady right here … Nicole Perkins…

Mark Maryboy: She needs to be called out.

April Charley: …fostered one of my Aunties. SHE FOSTERED!!

Mark Maryboy: All I can say is that you have an idiot aunt.

April Charley: No, I do not!

Unidentified Woman with others: “WOW!”

April Charley: If that is the case, you need to look in the mirror…

Mark Maryboy: YOU look in the mirror.

April Charley: I do everyday. And I am very proud that I am related to white people.

(Several people In Navajo in the background)……….

But what I want to know is why is it you are using paperwork that you plagiarized from my grandpa to connect to the Bears Ears….

(Man in back speaking Navajo)….

Unidentified Navajo woman: We are going to have to shut this down if that continues. I’m sorry, that’s not what this meeting is for.

April Charley: Ok, so then how come you didn’t shut it down for the town meeting when he was sitting here plagiarizing other people.

Unidentified man: We are talking about Bears Ears.

April Charley: You just said people are racist. That’s not part of any town meeting.

Mark Maryboy: They are racist.

April Charley: No, they’re not.

Mark Maryboy: They’re members of the Klu Klux Klan.

Wendy Black: We had a meeting last night and we never said one disparaging word about you, Mark. Not one. And I’ve heard nothing but disparaging words from you. Kenneth knows me better. You don’t.

(Several people talking…one woman might say, “All of you that are against the Bears Ears, if you could go out please.”)

Mark Maryboy: So which unit do you belong to, the third or the fourth Klu Klux Klan?

Wendy Black: Ok, do you want to go outside and talk about it?

Ted Black: You stood up for 15 minutes and told nothing but lies. So you would recognize the lie for sure because you are a liar. You are a poor representative of the Navajo Nation.

Mark Maryboy: You are a member of the Klu Klux Klan!

Wendy Black: You are not doing the Navajo Nation any favors. You should not be here speaking for them!

Ted Black: You’re a lying Navajo. You’re not a good man.

(Several people yelling)…..

Unidentified Navajo man: ORDER!

Ted Black: You’re a lying Navajo.

Mark Maryboy: You’re a lying white Klu Klux Klan man.

(Several people speaking in Navajo)

Unidentified Navajo woman: We would like to ask everyone to leave that are visiting our members please.

(Grandma Betty talking in Navajo)

(Mark leaves)

Wendy Black: Well Mark’s gone now, so there’s no problem. We didn’t ruin anything. Mark did. 

(Wendy is talking to another unidentified man as she’s walking out).


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2 comments for “San Juan County: The Mexican Water Town Meeting, Featuring Mark Maryboy and Grandma Betty

  1. Monique McDermott ( formerly Visser)
    October 7, 2019 at 10:48 am

    Reading this transcript was painful because what is happening in this meeting has more to do with the sociopolitical and historical context created by settler colonialism and how it is still playing out today. I don’t agree with name calling, but I do agree that it seems completely hypocritical that the white population (mainly from Blanding and Monticello) are not okay having less representation than they have become accustomed to since they (we) drove Native Americans onto reservations. The political representation should reflect the population and if people try to do everything they can to make sure people of color have a subordinate position than we simply cannot wave that flag and honorably place our hands over our hearts in the name of democracy.

  2. Jami Bayles
    October 15, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    Monique McDermott, with all due respect, where did you get that “it seems completely hypocritical that the white population (mainly from Blanding and Monticello) are not okay having less representation than they have become accustomed to” from this article? Are you just going to gloss over the fact that Mark Maryboy is referring to Aneth residents as “tame Indians”? That he told Ms. Charley that he couldn’t be related to her because he was “too good-looking”? Or that her Aunt was an idiot for being fostered by a Caucasian family?? Or that he told Navajo Elder Betty Jones that she was talking crazy??? I suggest you go back and re-read this transcript. This isn’t about race, historical context, or even political representation. But if you choose to believe that, then you can’t ignore the fact that COUNTY COMMISSIONER Kenneth Maryboy, an elected official, allowed his brother Mark to carry on and verbally abuse several members of the audience, both Anglo AND Navajo. There were only a handful of Anglos at this meeting, and they were personally invited by Aneth Chapter residents. They were there to protect each other, not to create contention. This article is about how the Maryboys CONTINUE to bully members of their own Chapter, and other residents of the county. And this is not something new – it’s just the first time that it was actually recorded and transcribed in both languages.

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