I'm just guessing, but I'll bet Mr. Denton Blueeyes never has visited Hawaii.

However, given that nearly 400 of his fellow tribal members spent perhaps $1 million in public money to go there, I'm sure he thinks it must be a pretty darn special place.

Mr. Blueeyes is Navajo and does not speak English.

He is 74 years old.

He lives on the Navajo reservation atop a dusty, gusty, brown patch of dirt in the high-desert landscape south of Shiprock.

Water for his modest one-bedroom house and his few sheep has to be hauled there.

During the 30 years he has lived in this proud home, he has seen the huge power lines go up over the horizon, but the closest they came to his house was two miles. So while most of America seeks to go wireless with the Internet, switches to HDTV from old picture tubes, and debates about whether to use cable or satellite, Mr. Blueeyes has lived without electricity.

On Monday, Mr. Blueeyes got his picture on the front page of the newspaper.

Thanks to a solar panel contraption that can provide enough juice to light a lamp and perhaps a few minutes of TV, but not a water heater, Mr. Blueeyes at least has some form of electrical power now.

That's the rose.

The thorns:

  • He is one of about 18,000 Navajo households on a decades-long list to get electricity.

  • Nationwide, more than 14 percent of American Indian reservation households have no access to electricity, compared with less than 2 percent of all U.S. households.

  • The Navajo Nation, the largest reservation in the country, accounts for 75 percent of the households in the United States without electricity.

    Almost 40 percent of the Navajo Nation is powerless, and apparently, in more ways than one.

    ***

    Mr. Blueeyes did not ask me to be his spokesman, nor to put words in his mouth. He may not care one bit about an ongoing federal investigation into Navajo travel to Hawaii as long as he can use an electrical hot plate instead of firewood to heat something for supper tonight.

    I am, however, going to exercise my journalistic privilege on this one.

    It stinks.

    It's not fair.

    And there are plenty, Anglo and Navajo, who should share the blame for this disgrace. Sending as many a 400 people to Hawaii for a national conference on education, using precious and limited tribal money and federal funds intended to help Navajo school children, should be illegal.

    Perhaps, that is the case. The Department of the Interior confirmed that its Inspector General investigation continues into whether taxpayer money was misused for so many to go so far, and for what?

    There were not 400 Navajo representatives at the same conference in the three previous years, including when it was in much closer Phoenix and Denver.

    Yet, hundreds of Navajo school board members, council delegates and the Navajo president and his wife all felt this mission was more important than, say, Mr. Blueeyes.

    A few years ago, I was taking part in one of several fellowships I've attended at Columbia University in New York City, and there I had the opportunity to meet former President Bill Clinton.

    Clinton, the Navajo quickly will tell you, is the first sitting president to have ever visited the Navajo Nation, having done so only a few years earlier.

    "Mr. President, do you remember that day?" I asked him.

    Indeed he did. "Wasn't that a lot of fun?" he replied with his smooth trademark smile.

    Clinton really wowed them that day here in Ship-rock.

    He had done his homework. Upon taking the stand to speak to several thousand Navajo gathered in the hot sun to see him, he introduced himself in the Navajo tradition of giving the family history of his clan, and he did so all in Navajo. The latter is no easy task whatsoever. Everyone, including myself, was mightily impressed.

    Then he proceeded that day to give a free computer to a Navajo girl, proclaiming the end is near to the great Digital Divide in this nation that separates the technological haves and have nots.

    The problem?

    That girl, like Mr. Blueeyes, lived in a home without utilities.

    It was a well-meaning president who failed to grasp the whole picture.

    ***

    The last time I met with a president, Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr., he told me he would be interested in joining me when I talked of wanting to tour the reservation to meet people like Mr. Blueeyes.

    We, at that time, were discussing whether the Navajo Nation needs another coal-fired power plant. Opponents say there already is too much industrial pollution over the sacred Navajo land. Proponents say, the Navajo need the jobs.

    Regarding the Hawaii trip, however, Mr. Shirley will not take my calls, or so says his spokesman, who informed our reporter that he would no longer be of help to us with this story.

    I've also posed my questions in ink using this very spot, but only his spokesman responded, with something akin to saying our newspaper basically had no business asking such questions. It was, after all, this newspaper that started the whole stink by first reporting what President Shirley and so many of his fellow travelers had done.

    No, the burden of this sin certainly does not fall only on the shoulders of President Shirley.

    But why, in Blueeyes' name, do he and the elected council delegates not see the need to take leadership and say that this trip was wrong, that fewer should have gone, and that most of that $1 million should have stayed on the Navajo Nation?

    Why did others, such as all those school board members, not find the moral integrity to seek better ways to help their school children?

    Personally, I'm hoping for at least two positive developments to come of all this.

    One, perhaps the federal investigators will produce findings and suggestions that somehow can lead to a change in both Navajo and federal policies regarding oversight, accountability and purpose for all this money and those who spend it.

    Two, perhaps if the law is followed and this newspaper can obtain the names of every elected official and school board member who traveled, we can print them and then the Navajo voters can decide for themselves who deserved to spend a week in Hawaii, and who deserves to be schooled at the polls.

    After all, isn't all this about education?

    Somehow, I doubt Mr. Blueeyes sees it that way.

    Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, NM 87499; or at tturner@daily-times.com.