Letters: Dineh Benally deceiving local farmers
Mr. Dineh Benally is the lead individual deceiving the local farmers in Northern Agency to participate in the hemp farm production on the Navajo Nation by using the 2018 Farm Bill.
He is unethical using his role as the president of the San Juan River Farm Board to license these farmers on his own to start the illegal production of hemp on tribal lands.
Mr. Benally and other participating illegal hemp farmers are proving to the community that they’re unable to farm the local produce of corn, melons, squash, etc.
The Diné people were allotted farmland to sustain food for their family and the people, not to grow illegal hemp. Are we going to be eating hemp in our stew or roasting hemp on the grill?
Currently, these illegal hemp farmers are unable to farm the land as our grandparents used to and now have their eyes on growing hemp to make a profit for themselves only.
We no longer see the farmer helping or sharing with their family, both immediate and extended, with their harvest produce. Mr. Benally and the local illegal hemp farmers have disregarded all laws of authority.
They continue to bring in these foreign outsiders without any regards on how it would impact the lives of the communities.
These foreigners are preying on local community members to lease their farms, homes, travel trailers, and churches to them for shelter. They (foreigners) disregard the Navajo Nation’s current shelter-in-place rule by visiting Navajo families at their homes with no personal protective equipment on a daily basis.
Mr. Dineh Benally’s personal Web page indicates he is trying to bring economic development to the Diné people by introducing hemp production. With my observation every day, Mr. Benally and local participating illegal hemp farmers are not bringing any economic development to the Diné people. They are only profiting for themselves by employing 95 percent of foreign outsiders to operate their illegal hemp farms.
According to Mr. Benally’s hemp licensing process, it indicates that the lessee or applicant (illegal hemp farmer) has to undergo a background investigation, but nowhere does it indicate that the foreign outsiders they bring on the Navajo Nation undergo a background investigation to operate the illegal hemp farms.
How does Mr. Benally and his participating entourage ensure the communities that these foreign outsiders are not child molesters, sexual predators, or criminals?
Mr. Benally and his entourage’s operation are so shady that they do most of their transportation of the illegal hemp in the middle of the night to the early morning hours interrupting the communities with their loud semi-trailers that can’t turn into the cattle guard or road to the illegal hemp farm. This heavy equipment is ruining the community roads. Is Mr. Benally going to pay for repairs on these roads?
He might as well since he was boasting about building roads during his recent bid for the Navajo Nation president’s office. Do these illegal hemp farmers and foreign outsiders pay any taxes for operating their hemp on tribal lands? Do they meet the Navajo employee preference laws by employing the Diné people on the Navajo Nation?
Do they meet the environmental codes for farming production? Do they meet the Office of Safety and Health Administration regulations?
There are a lot of unanswered questions that Mr. Benally and his entourage are unable to answer, which leaves residents asking how our “elected” officials sit idle on the sidelines, refusing to speak up for the people and question how this illegal hemp production is allowed? How can they ensure the communities safety from these outsider foreigners?
We need to question Mr. Benally and our elected officials’ ethical conduct. Are they in this elected position to benefit themselves or do they represent the best interest of the people?
I request for other community members to voice their concerns or issues to their local chapter officials, Council delegates, Navajo Nation president and vice president, Department of Agriculture on the state and federal level, Navajo Nation Ethics Office, Regional Business Development Office, Navajo Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Public Safety, Natural and Water Resources, Navajo and state departments of transportation and Indian Health Service Environmental Health and Engineering office to check on these illegal hemp productions in our communities.
We need help in our communities to re-assure our community members, elders, children, and families that we will not be pushed around by Dineh Benally and his entourage.
Marijuana/hemp should be illegal
The Navajo Nation Council should not even consider legalizing marijuana on the reservation. Not even the farming of hemp should be considered. The illegal farming of these drugs in the Shiprock Agency shows how there would be no acknowledgement of Navajo Nation laws on the production of such substances.
We must ask if our voted delegates even consider a bill to legalize these intoxicants our people struggle with, then our elected Navajo president should veto such a bill to keep these substances off the Navajo Nation.
There are plenty of off-reservation farmland that these self-serving individuals could obtain to farm their marijuana/hemp. If there is a need for Dineh Benally to open a store to sell his produce, then he should join the alcohol stores that cling to the reservation borders to sell their intoxicants to the Navajos who struggle with said addictions.
Yet, with the outbreak of COVID-19, while all Navajo people struggle to keep their health and the health of their loved ones virus free, these individuals found this adequate distraction from their illegal activities and set out to start as much illegal farming up and going thinking no one would notice.
Even rushing to get greenhouses up hiring those desperate for work to unknowingly work these illegal farms to the point of falsely representing the Navajo Nation in acquiring foreign entities to buy Navajo farmlands to farm marijuana/hemp.
For as far back as I can remember, I am 58 years old, Navajo Nation programs have been diligently teaching our Navajo youth how drugs can hinder the healthy growth of the lives of any person who uses these intoxicant substances.
And the same Navajo programs have stressed the continued teachings of the true Diné way of life with emphasis placed on Navajo traditions, culture, customs, our Navajo heritage, of which marijuana and the farming of hemp have no part.
It has been said that marijuana could make those suffering an illness feel more comfortable. It could, but then again, it could not. I have also known others who say alcohol makes them feel painless in their health struggles. Should the tribe then consider legalizing alcohol? These are illegal substances that many of our people struggle with on a daily basis. How can making it readily available make Navajo life more beneficial?
Something this drastic to the Navajo way of life should not be voted on by a handful of members, but should be put to a vote by all Diné to do what would be good and beneficial for all Navajo and the tribe as a whole.
The San Juan Farm Board fails to consider the opinions of all Navajo farmers when deciding to act in a criminal manner, disregarding Navajo Nation laws, on the startup of marijuana/hemp farming in the Shiprock Agency. Majority of our Navajo farmers disagree with bringing these substances onto what was once sacred Navajo farms, and it would not have passed had a vote from all farmers taken place.
The unethical and criminal behavior of the San Juan Farm Board president would have been sufficient for a recall and re-election of this position, had this board been a legitimate operation. Dineh Benally has admitted to breaking Navajo Nation law for the past three years, “Benally ignores Nation with hemp operation.”
An admission that he should be criminally indicted if the court in Shiprock complied with the Navajo Nation law and not deny an order to halt all his illegal activities. An action by said court might come as no surprise after hearing how local law enforcement find it difficult to enforce any laws in the Shiprock Agency knowing full well this judge fails to render any just sentences on any criminal behavior, only deferred sentences or sentencing probation.
Waste of manpower for responding law officers. Now we hear how local delegates and chapter officials interfere with the arrest and prosecution of this criminal by demanding release and no charges be filed against him, which makes them an “accessory after the fact,” or even “aiding and abetting a crime” – all unethical behavior for anyone in public office.
They even try to OK his criminal behavior by suggesting how hemp production is happening up and down the San Juan River, but fails to recognize that the majority of legal hemp farms are on New Mexico state lands, which are regulated, according to New Mexico agriculture laws, and those on the Navajo Nation are farmed illegally, according to Navajo Nation laws, where hemp may be legal depending upon THC levels, but the farming of hemp is still considered illegal. Thus making any farming of hemp a crime against the Navajo Nation and the Navajo people.
These crimes being committed daily by such criminals in plain sight of the Navajo public and with the full knowledge of its illegality by all those involved shows no respect or acknowledgement towards the Navajo Nation and its laws. And these criminal practices are evident of all the illegality that will come from allowing these substances onto our sacred Navajo lands. Farmers who allow these types of illegal farming on their leased plots should have the farm lands forfeited back to the Navajo Tribe to be put up for farming leases by true Diné farmers.
Anything as drastic as legalization of marijuana/hemp farming should be a choice made by all Navajo communities and not just from one small group working only for self-gain with no consideration of the dissatisfaction of the majority of other farmers. Reading the website of the San Juan River Farm Board, the only interest is on marijuana/hemp farming and while there is mention of helping all Navajo farmers. Nothing is being done to provide adequate irrigation water to local farms or any workshops, courses, or trainings on agribusiness of our Navajo traditional farm produce of corn, squash, melons, and fruit trees.
This site looks to be a front for the illegal criminal activities of marijuana/hemp farming and nothing more. No consideration of the health and well-being of those suffering from breathing problems, including our elders and our infants, was made when these atrocious greenhouses were erected to house the obnoxious stench plants that now waft above the neighbors who were never asked their consent to pollute their air and block their sights once enjoyed. Sad example of what happens when we stray from our sacred Navajo teachings and allow bad and evil unto our once sacred lands.
We need to understand all the things happening these days come from the ignorance of a few. Preserve our culture, preserve our heritage. What examples are we setting for our youth? So no to alcohol! Say no to the drugs! Teach.
Historic injustice, systemic racism
Aja Raden from “Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World”, writes: “… In 1626, a Dutchman named Peter Minuit bought the island of Manhattan from the Lenape Indians, an eastern branch of the Delaware Nation, for the bargain price of $24 worth of glass beads and trinkets.”
Manhattan Island sold for $24 dollars in 1626 and, yes, keep the change. We see that the historic deeply entrenched shameful legacy of social injustices, systemic racism, and economic exploitation in the nation has once again been uncovered.
These depraved acts of inhumanity that defines the nation at its worst is nothing new or unique, especially with the cultural genocide and decimation of Native peoples generally taught in schools as the “settlement” or “westward expansion” of the young nation.
Pointedly, the real history of Native peoples as viewed from the Native peoples are too horrid to re-tell or describe, a “…long history of inconsistent laws and regulations, ill-conceived policies and contradictory reforms,” policies and deeds, which have included “… peacemaking diplomacy, armed conflict, tribal removal, subjugation, extermination, concentration, assimilation, termination, and self-government — not necessarily in that order.” We see today what can come about when a nation is painfully insensitive to the humanity of other cultures.
While Native peoples in their homeland may see as normal the ingrained high unemployment rate, the ever-struggling education system, housing needs, improved roads, increasing criminal activities, a heartless bureaucracy, on and on, that the under-resourced Native health care system is now having to bear the brunt of the dreadful disproportionate pandemic virus sends a powerful message on the scourge of predatory racial economic exploitation and indifference.
It may be time for a new socio-economic lens and see that this corrosive inhumane treatment of Native peoples where economic exploitation is central to the profiteering equation has always been with us since the 1600s. History speaks to documenting huge social and economic expansion for the predatory for-profit corporations off Native homelands at the expense of deeply ingrained economic exploitation of Native peoples in their homeland.
This systemic cultural exploitation has now surfaced in the form of hugely disproportionate dreadful virus spread in our Native communities.
In a highly competitive-high poverty economy, which defines the U.S. economic structure, it is clear where our Native homeland socio-economic reality rest.
While our communities historically and to date tell us there is much, much work to be done, here we see the continuing massive migration of our highly skilled people off our homeland, the drivers and vehicle for robust economic development. We also see millions and hear about billions of tribal dollars in financial corporate investments off our homeland where corporate bankers and venture capitalists use our peoples’ monies to make huge profits in numerous ways leveraging the wealthy to even higher grounds in the banking investment industry.
If money does not appear to be the issue, why is it that Native homelands are seemingly hopelessly entrenched in a deep socio-economic quagmire leaving a huge wedge in racial socio-economic disparity? Should we not, at the very least, as advised before, look into highly successful socio-economic nations such as the Nordic countries to bring into sharper focus what is out there in economic challenges and nation-development locally, regionally, and globally for our people?
As our people seek job opportunities, homes, health care, improved roads, and great schools in our homeland, there are voices asking when does this cultural economic exploitation of today dating back to 1600 end in our homeland? Economic conditions, exploitation and education deprivation of a certain ethnic cultural-language group are not natural events.
Large tax cuts for the top one percent for corporations and multimillion-dollar estates leading to increasing income and wealth inequality while carving out minuscule public assistance for the increasing low-income are not natural events. These are man-made social-economic engineering dating years back where self-preservation of the wealthy has always been the socio-political order of the day.
Why we continue to live with a real sense of hunger allowing virtually an incomplete account of such a dire human topic in such an inhumane way poses serious troubling questions.
The deeply misguided tribal sovereignty does not have to continue with multi-national financial corporations lending our peoples’ money for robust economic development off our homeland, all the while leaving widespread landscape of dire life conditions in Native homelands. What have Native peoples gained from the venture capitalists acquiring equity shares in bankrupt companies using our peoples’ money or the high yield interest rate investments off Native homelands?
Just look around our Native communities. Where our current tribal sovereignty is taking our peoples financial interest should raise ever more uncomfortable but important questions.
Piercing, uncomfortable, and inconvenient questions need answers such as why are the privileged few, bankers as rich investors, venture capitalists using and taking money from those who need the money the most in our Native homelands? Answers are needed as to who are the predatory for-profit money managers or indeed who is oppressing who? Who in their comfort zone is overseeing tribal wealth management to move Diné homeland out of the economic exploitation, deprivation?
Who is saying it is OK to build one’s fortune on the backs of the less fortunate? Where is the full disclosure of financial reports of the peoples’ money before the Council meetings and the public? The financial life of the peoples’ money matters.
The well-being, the public health of our Native peoples matter, the dire consequences of unequal concentration and unfair deliberate allocation of resources doled out to Native peoples matter. It is extremely disturbing that the shameful legacy of social injustices, systemic racism, and economic exploitation of Native peoples that has direct critical bearing on the public health of our people are deemed not worthy of national public education, awareness, and urgent critical attention.
These scathing public health social-cost data on the everyday lives of Native peoples matter as these social-cost statistics happens to be us, real people, in real time, in real setting. Although the American economic landscape was never structured to level the playing field, at the very least, Native homelands should look within, within one’s heritage traditions, teachings, and wisdom, strengthened with rigorous quality education so as to not always have to look to outward dependency as the beginning and ending point to unpack the unacceptable searing life conditions in our homeland.
It is clear with today’s malaise nationally there is a need to move out of a culture of Native people economic exploitation and indifference that for too long has placed our people, our children and grandchildren in intergenerational crises.
Harold G. Begay
To’Nanees’ Dizi, Ariz.
Air Force retiree wanted
The Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp at Monument Valley High School in Kayenta is seeking a retired Air Force officer or retired enlisted member to become an aerospace science instructor, or ASI. As an ASI, you will be responsible for assisting the U.S. Air Force in developing high school students as citizens with character, dedicated to serving their nation and community.
More so, become mentors and leaders to guide our young adults as they navigate through an uncertain future. As military members, we understood the difficulty in completing missions and finding the will to “push forward.” The same can be said about our youth living on the reservation.
Our youth are comprised of 91% Native American and some come from homes where water, electricity, and indoor plumbing is non-existent. Although the Navajo Nation has approximately 167 public schools, 91 Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, and 26 contract schools, and 41 private and mission schools, we’re the only school offering an Air Force supported program.
A program designed to work directly with our youth and instill values of citizenship, personal responsibility, character, and a sense of accomplishment. Plus, there are scholarship opportunities, leadership development, and exposure to various career choices beyond high school. Why is that important? Well, our students are constantly faced with negative influences that often lead to making bad choices.
Rather than allowing our youth to face these choices alone, we can assist our students to developing, improving, and solidifying their patterns, attitudes and actions for a better future. As such, our kids need professional role models to help prepare them to become expert decision-makers, productive citizens and leaders for our nation.
If you know anyone who has retired from the U.S. Air Force within the last five years or is close to retiring, as an E6 to E9 or O4 to O6 under honorable conditions, please contact me (Jon.Sombrero@kayenta.k12.az.us).
Master Sgt. (retired)