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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 20, 2004 - Issue 109


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Navajo First Lady Offers MADD Message to Kids

by Pamela G. Dempsey - Diné Staff, Gallup Independent
credits: Navajo Nation First Lady Vicki Shirley reaches out to shake hands of the children who attended her MADD presentation Wednesday at the Lukachukai Community School. (Photo by Craig Robinson/Independent)

LUKUCHUKAI — More than 400 students at Lukuchukai Community School got an earful of MADD Tuesday from Vicki Shirley, the first lady of the Navajo Nation.

As a representative of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization, Shirley has visited several elementary schools around the Navajo Nation reminding kids the dangers of drinking and driving.

"The important thing is not to get involved with alcohol," Shirley said.

President Joe Shirley Jr. joined his wife at Lukuchukai to talk about how they coped with the loss of their daughter, Tona Vee Shirley-Paymella, who was killed by a drunk driver the day after Thanksgiving in 2001. The students also watched a video presentation which spotlights the president's mission.

"I was so devastated that I didn't think I could go on," president Shirley said in the video. "But after some time, I decided I had to continue for my beautiful angel Tona. I just couldn't sit back and let drunk drivers continue to shatter other families."

His wife said MADD's goal is to educate what happens if you drink.

"We're targeting underage drinking," she said.

Shantia Bahe, a 14-year old student at Lukuchukai said the first lady's presentation was good and that she found it useful.

"She said 'stay away from drunk driving,'" Bahe said.

The students are scheduled for spring break next week and their principal, Herb Harvey, said the presentations, one of few assemblies the school allowed its 420 students to attend, was timely.

"I thought it was beneficial before the students go into their spring break, it's a preventative type of service" Harvey said. "Ms. Shirley is from here, and the students really identified with was like a homecoming."

President Shirley signed a proclamation with the nationally-known MADD in February 2003 to stop drunk driving and prevent underage drinking. Shirley said earlier that the Navajo Nation Law Enforcement received 37,000 calls in 2002 for alcohol-related incidents.

The first lady established the tribe's first MADD chapter in Window Rock and is pushing to develop more MADD chapters throughout the Navajo Nation. The development of the Crownpoint MADD Chapter, the first on the New Mexico side of the reservation, was organized by Alberta Becenti who witnessed firsthand the effects drunk driving had on innocent victims.

"As adults, it's our responsibility to protect our children and our community from drunk driving," Becenti stated in a press release last year.

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