To Whom It May Concern,
I am the primary author of SB1653, sponsored by Senator Wendy Rogers. SB1653 calls for a study committee and appropriations for a survey of boundaries to determine whether my idea for Sitgreaves County is feasible and in the best interest of the people who would be affected.
I am a veteran, published author, working musician, and filmmaker. I am also part Native-American and a former Mormon. Politically, I identify as a Progressive Democrat.
On October 20, 2016, I invented ‘Sitgreaves County’ to be the fictional setting for my film In the Land of Good Oaks. At that time, which was the beginning of the Trump era, I came up with a ‘Borat’-esque publicity stunt with hope that it would bring attention to myself and to the film.
I played whatever stereotypical role I thought would work for me, depending upon my audience. There were no limits for me during this period of time because I rationalized that it was all just ‘for show’.
But, while I may have fooled some, others figured me out and cried foul from the beginning. To keep them at bay I kept up my persona and I labeled them ‘enemies of the movement’ until now. I said many indefensible things in my materials and private messages about Native Americans (particularly Navajo), Mormons, and other groups, first to be shocking and controversial in hopes that it would attract the press, and secondly to make the conservatives that I had aligned myself with look terrible and ridiculous.
My meeting with Representative Walt Blackman was a turning point. I abandoned my persona and he encouraged me to come up with a real plan that would be beneficial to both the region at large and the tribes, so that was the direction that I went.
As word spread, I became the ‘actual’ leader of the local grassroots Sitgreaves County movement. When the Coronavirus pandemic started, we helped provide food assistance to local communities, including local tribes, through the Southern Navajo County Community Feeding Collaborative. I also worked with the Desert Mountain Energy Corporation to secure Northeastern Arizona’s future as the helium capital of the world. Their stock has since risen 657%.
But, after testifying in favor of SB1653 during the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, I even targeted and attacked lobbyist Barry Aarons, who argued against the bill by publishing viscous memes about him on the Internet, as well as posting his email address so that my supporters would harass him.
Because the materials from 2017 are fake, in that they were intended to be used for my film as a publicity stunt, are still being circulated around…including having been read on the Senate floor during COW and online by opposition to the bill, the conversation surrounding Sitgreaves County has now lead to Navajo Nation President Nez and Vice President Lizer issuing a formal letter to Governor Ducey in opposition to the bill with the accusation that proponents of the bill are racists.
I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to put out the fire that I started for more than a week because I have caused so much pain. The only productive conversation was with Navajo Nation Vice President Lizer, who I spoke with at Senator Rogers’ behest where I explained all of this. Moving forward, we agreed that whatever happens from this whole fiasco, all parties need to move towards healing.
I understand that any words of sorrow from someone who has been so dishonest for so many years are likely to sound insincere at best and that each and every person who has been affected by my actions will need to decide on their own if they are willing to accept my apology. But, I do feel sorrow for the pain that I have caused so many people. Regardless of any good that came from or that may come from my actions, the good does not excuse my bad behavior. I accept full responsibility for the wrong that I have done. I do hope, not for my sake, but for the sake of all who have been hurt by my actions, that they will all be able to forgive me.
In the best interests of all, I will no longer take part in this cause. But, it is my sincere hope, that we can all come together as Arizonans and as Americans, regardless of ideology or race, to find ways to turn these events into something that will heal, not worsen, these terrible and toxic divisions within our country and our communities, which I am just as much responsible for because of my biases and actions. I promise to work with a professional on understanding my own pain and anger, so that I too may forgive, and not take it out on the world by hurting others again.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I pray that this apology will bring anyone who receives it, greater peace and understanding.
With a heavy heart,
Jesse Michael-Geronimo Valencia
15 March 2021