Letters: Time to crack down on hemp farming

With all that we find ourselves struggling with in and around the Navajo Nation, many ask, “Why is this happening?” It has been said that as we Diné fall away from our teachings of our traditions, culture, heritage, the Diné way of life, then our people begin to become lost of who they are and what they were put here to do.

With the allowance of many things being brought into the midst of the Four Sacred Mountains, come the inexistence of true Diné sacredness and the loss of true Diné identity.

There are many things being brought onto our sacred lands from outside the Nation, things that have no place among the once proud Navajo people. Recent illegal farming of marijuana/hemp being one major issue should not be allowed within our reservation borders.

Farming of these substances should be kept to outside farms and those who wish to take part in that life could live that life away from our sacred farmlands. There is talk of jobs these illegal farms would provide but from what we see, the jobs are going to foreign nationals brought in with very little jobs going to local Navajo workers, and at lower wages than what is paid to these foreign guests.

Whose guests are these workers brought in? If they are guests, why would they then be put to work? Do these guests from foreign countries possess work visas as required of all foreign nationals who accept money for labor in this country? If they do have required work visas, then their work should be with the United States.

The sovereign Navajo Nation does not have protocol in place for foreign nationals living and working on Navajo Nation, but do have Navajo preference for all jobs on the Navajo Nation. The federal government should be made aware of these foreign workers encroaching on the Navajo Nation to be employed and live, something that is worked on daily by the U.S. government to stop from happening.

The farm board president has mentioned that the year is 2020 and that we should stop discrimination against his guests. He should be made aware that the majority of all perpetrators of our missing and murdered Indigenous women were at one time someone’s “guest.”

For the Navajo community to worry about the health and safety of our Navajo women and all our loved ones to where they distrust foreigners coming onto the Navajo Nation does not make them “discriminating.”

It makes them safety conscious, as all family-loving people should be in this year 2020. As to the argument that these farmlands are the property of those who farm the lands, truth should be known that these farmlands are federal trust lands under federal jurisdiction.

If these farmlands are owned, then yearly tax payments should have been made on said property, to where back payment could be demanded from those claiming complete ownership. If these farmlands belong to the Navajo farmers to plant what they want, as has been stated, why does the farm board president ask payment for leases to allow the farmers to plant marijuana/hemp?

The farmers who farm these lands have the leased rights to farm these lands and do not have complete control on what is farmed. The farming of illegal substances should be sufficient for the forfeiture of farmlands back to the Navajo Nation to be set up for lease by other qualified traditional law-abiding farmers.

Window Rock, along with the Navajo Nation president with the current administration, the local chapters, and the majority of local farmers has rightful say against illegal farming of substances deemed unhealthy to the Navajo people.

The nasty terrible stench given off by these plants should suffice in the Navajo Nation Office of Environmental Health and Protection to intervene and demand these illegal farms remain at a far distance from housing complexes, which have residents with health problems, which require breathing assistance equipment. The illegal greenhouses have their walls rolled up daily, which releases the awful stench and causes breathing problems for any and all around.

The Navajo Housing Authority should also file complaints to these illegal farmlands cropping up in the backyards of the housing complex, challenging the NHA statement of providing safe, decent, sanitary homes to the Navajo family. It has gotten so bad residents find it hard to open up their windows to let in fresh air.

These illegal farmlands are destined to yield very little money for the farmers who weakly fell for this ploy of getting rich quickly. First, the majority of the farm jobs are going to the foreign nationals. Second, there is no guarantee of the purchase of any or all of the crop harvested. Third, the foreign entities will be expecting re-payment of all the funds paid for the equipment and materials provided to start these illegal farms.

Fourth, what little remains will most definitely go to line the pockets of those who scammed the farmers who would listen and believe what was falsely promised to start these illegal farms. It is good that the farm board president, Dineh Benally, did not come close to winning his bid for Navajo Nation president the last two elections.

His self-serving agenda is evident with his unwillingness to abide by Navajo Nation laws and his reluctance to comply with the Navajo Nation Justice Department’s order to cease and desist. Also his bid to become a New Mexico senator falling short could show his desire to hold public office shall not happen and any future plans to do so should not happen.

The continued misinformation being given by him should show his true intent to get as much out of these illegal farms as he can leaving very little for those who fell for his ploy. In this year 2020, the Navajo people should be very safety conscious, not just for self, but for all those they love. A petition for removal from office should be created to oust Dineh Benally, whose intentions show to be self-serving with no intent to think of others, but those few who blindly follow him.

If any board member challenges his demands, they are ousted from the board to be replaced with another “yes” man to do his bidding. And his lack of following Navajo Nation rules and regulations should ban any future attempt to hold public office.

I applaud the local school district for voicing concerns against the close existence of these illegal farms to the school zone that are attended by local youth ranging in age from preschool to college-aged students whose well-being is put in jeopardy by foreign workers and the traffic of speeding semi-trucks going to and from these illegal farms.

It is time that legal actions are taken to stop these illegal farms before something really bad happens. Preventative action needs to be taken by our Navajo government and Justice Department, and if Dineh Benally continues to fail by such orders, then it should be time for the federal government to step in and bring to a halt all these illegal activities. The year is 2020, we can no longer sit idly by and allow something tragic to happen before we cry out for legal action to take place.

Joe Yazzie
Shiprock, N.M.

Who is at fault in hemp-growing issue?

The hemp growing in and around Shiprock has become a significant and controversial issue. I hold Dineh Benally and the Navajo Nation, specifically the Department of Justice, both at fault.

I fault Mr. Benally for not being more informative to the community about the extent of business he was going to do, including the amount of lands that would be used, not considering and preparing neighboring farms for the impact and bringing in migrant workers. This workforce from outside the community raises concerns about public safety and compliance with Navajo labor laws. I fault DOJ for not being more astute.

Mr. Benally openly engaged in growing hemp last year, it was questioned then and Navajo law still does not address this. I see this as a failure of fiduciary responsibility. DOJ should have anticipated the need to recommend appropriate amendments to Navajo law. As a result, Mr. Benally takes advantage of and capitalizes on a “gray area” of the law — he is not violating the law nor is he in compliance with the law.

I have not taken a position on this. I raised my hand to uphold Navajo law, to honor the judicial process. This includes respectfully leaving a matter to the courts, as in this case where DOJ has filed suit against Dineh Benally. My understanding is that it is not proper for public officials to make comment on a case while it is in the jurisdiction and authority of the court. I have participated in many protest actions in my time.

The intent normally is to keep focus on the principal issue. The hemp protest rally ended with speeches against Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton and me for not taking a position. We are accused of being on Mr. Benally’s payroll. Statements were made to take us out of office because of this. This might be comical if I did not consider the greater concern this makes. Our community is further divided.

There is more animosity and suspicion. It is troubling what message this makes on the young minds who participated in the protest. I am also accused of stealing from the Northern Diné COVID-19 Relief Effort. I encourage my accusers to not waste any time reporting me to the Ethics and Rules Office. I am getting sniper fire from political detractors and supposed friends alike. It must be election time.

Chili Yazzie
Shiprock, N.M.

Government needs to be restructured

The political election will soon be upon us. The way things are going within this coronavirus pandemic and the sideshows of political madness within the dominant society and elsewhere, the voting public may have their red carpet yanked from under them. Whatever the case, surely there are backup systems in a democratic society?

As indigenous, our local political election in representation has always been distinctive. It seems different in a way where to sift candidates through intense research and background checks seem labor-intensive and time consuming, as a result, overlooked. Still, it is politics, Navajo style, how we select our public servants based on apathy or compulsion, naîvete of youth, or as pushover targets.

Then there is our infamous twin-hero way, which seems reckless and without forethought, to choose candidates similar to us in our mannerism and of clan relations. After our now-elected officials are in public office for a while, possibly with enough confidence built to pursue their self-service agenda, this is when voters become upset and cynical towards their elected.

It seems we never consider our poor judgment into the equation of how the now-crooks and incompetents take advantage of our good nature in their political schemes. As understood, our political governing system was derived from once original eastern Indigenous concepts. However, the dominant society reversed its structure and removed vital ideas, then overlaid their Judeo-Christian arrangement.

Therefore, we are not familiar with this three-tongued government, where everybody talks, yet nobody listens. When we work it or fight it we only reap more difficulties than we solve. Seems a political game of “follow-the-hush-money” that nobody wants to play except our alleged corrupted politicians. Like a plague it makes people cringe and distance themselves from us. It is our fault at the voting booth, we know how to pick them, with our “wishful thinking or feelings.”

Perhaps if we compare our political governing system to our Native traditional concepts of living we may understand why our culture does not blend well with a social rule that sets us up for constant failure. For centuries as Indigenous we have benefitted from and lived our natural philosophy using a certain quantity in our perception of the world. This amount is within our myths and legends, rituals, directions, life elements, identity, seasons, clan relations, life cycles, and even what constitutes us as a human being, e.g., spirit, body, mind, and heart.

Our use of such measure has been successful in many ways, and that is the number four. This does not imply to replace a trio with a four-branch government. In a perfect Native world, ideal candidates would be those who possess common sense, nobility, intelligence, compassion, and stand stoic in defiance and determination in the face of danger. It would be those who live and mingle with the people and know their exact needs and wishes. Such leaders are always prepared and equipped at a moment’s notice to simplify confronted challenges.

And during this pandemic, to all our citizens and local and distant responders, on behalf of our less fortunate and those who cannot speak for themselves, thank you for all your charitable gestures.

It does not matter your occupational roles or volunteer functions, nor how small or how great your contributions were, your participation and contribution of your time, energy, and resources continue to provide hope and strength for our people. And let us remember and honor those responders who laid down their lives while helping others survive this deadly infection, including our deceased citizens and clan relatives. Our hope and your kindness and consideration are what keep us alive. Bend with the wind, we will endure and overcome to see a new dawn.

Robert L. Hosteen
Beclabito, N.M.

CARES Act funds: Washingdoon is watching

Although we do not have a two-party system within the Navajo Nation government, something’s going on in Window Rock that is not right about approving the CARES Act money.

We hear about staunch Republicans or Democrats, but we here on the reservation seem to be out for ourselves. A bit chaotic; nonetheless, what is not understood is the limit each branch of our government must operate within does not seem to agree when it is supposed to work together. Why are our executive (Office of the President and Vice President) and legislative (Council delegates) not respecting their powers delegated to them to run a government?

If it is based on a “red tape” system, we tend to stumble over ourselves. Aren’t the laws defined for a smooth operation? I believe the people are not going to let you fight indefinitely while the CARES Act granted by the federal government is left on the table as to who controls what. Whose money are you fighting over? Tribal or federal grant money?

When one branch has an overreach where it shouldn’t be is usually the problem. Examples can be given but this is enough to think about or it will get complicated. Usually, if a problem persists, an amendment to a constitution should be made — that is, if we had a constitution. Better yet, we have a fundamental law based on K’é, friendship and peace to work together that can solve the situation right now.

Any speech a politician makes is always with K’é. Don’t forget. That is how you got voted into office. Another to add to your thoughts. It seems decentralizing, according to a constitution, should work but has taken power away from the people and moved it back to Window Rock, or, it has never been let go. Supposedly, the powers not delegated to the Navajo Nation is still reserved to the people to correct your dilemma because you have forgotten to serve your constituency who voted you in and protests do not seem enough, and I believe that needs reminding.

I, for one, have lost loved ones over this pandemic. The ordinary course of affairs shouldn’t be like this, but concern for lives of your people should be paramount and we expect a working order between the three branches. Yet, nothing has gone smooth, but bickering and rhetoric coming out both sides. Meanwhile, the majority of the grant money is still waiting on the table. Nihé naat’aanii, this is not an equal and balanced system we see.

What are the difficulties to be faced to remedy the problem? Because Washingdoon is watching. Teddy Begay Kayenta, Ariz. CARES fund should prioritize existing projects Ya’at’eeh friends and in-laws. My name is Gavin Sosa, and my wife and I live in Houck, Arizona, on Burntwater Road.

Like many of you, we’ve been following the CARES Act funding. The $714 million has to be spent in less than five months, unless the tribe is granted the two-year extension that’s been proposed.

It’s heartening to see water infrastructure at the top of the list of tribal leadership’s priorities, but water lines can take decades.

Approval from families, obtaining permits, right-of-ways and funding, completing restroom additions, trenching and construction, etc. — each step takes time and involves numerous tribal branches and departments. And countless obstacles set projects back months or years. Two decades ago, folks in Houck began coming together to discuss the need for running water.

The Q-84 waterline extension project identified 54 households — hundreds of people, including infants and children, youth, adults, and our elders. Plans were completed, approvals and permits obtained, and tribal funds secured. Several years ago. And here families wait. Sadly, some of our elders have passed on, several recently from COVID-19.

They never received running water in their homes. To date, there are nine restroom additions that haven’t been started. Our chapter was just informed by Indian Health Service—OEH that an automatic valve needs to be installed, creating another delay. We’ve been told COVID-19 is the reason for the delays, but this pandemic is just the most recent obstacle.

Every chapter has projects that are in progress, some for years now. Maybe we should finish those before moving on. I know it’s exciting to think about all that money and the possibilities it brings, but what about projects our communities have been working on for years?

In the rush to try and spend the CARES Act funding, will they be forgotten? Do tribal agencies have the manpower to take on new projects? Are there enough Navajo-owned businesses to contract with?

Numerous departments that oversee capital projects have been working from home for months, and projects can’t move forward when people aren’t working. Our chapter has been told that restroom additions can’t be completed because of the pandemic, but I’ve seen NTUA/NTUA Choice, ADOT, and even Dish TV crews out in the field. I don’t know how workers and their families feel about the risk of going back to work, but if we’re not completing existing projects, then what’s the chance the CARES Act funds are used appropriately?

This $700 million could distract from ongoing projects and be a target for corruption. The tribe should focus on moving existing infrastructure projects toward completion — supporting communities and applying pressure when needed. And if the deadline comes and there’s money left over, maybe tribal leaders should trust the people and divide it amongst them. Ahe’hee for the opportunity to share.

Gavin Sosa
Houck, Ariz.

Invest in education; learn a trade, garden

Well, we are always told to invest in our future and that got me thinking. What should we invest in? What would be meaningful, useful, and, most of all, necessary? This idea to be self-reliant is coming from the fact that we are being told to “shelter-in-place,” being on a curfew and weekend lockdown except for necessary/essential purchases.

This pandemic is all around us here in the states. Some areas have it worse, much worse. For that, I would have to give kudos to our Navajo Nation president, Jonathan Nez, for following the science … and not some quack doctor or lame idea he hatched.

So, president, here’s to your leadership in and during this pandemic. Some of our people have invested their stimulus money productively, improving homes, adding on, or renovating.

Some have even developed their gardens, some have purchased livestock to improve their herds, and some may have also started on their journey to becoming a rancher or farmer. However, that 85-inch flat-screen TV you bought at Walmart will not feed you … congratulations! (Except for that TV person). Here are my thoughts.

Many of us have lost jobs, been laid off, or placed on leave. Those who are fortunate to maintain their work and jobs, you are blessed. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the U.S. economy continues to slide into the abyss. Economists just reported a loss of 1/3 of the gross domestic product (GDP) today.

This decrease in the GDP should cause some concern for all of us. Even the average person can see that if you have a checking account and you are spending wisely, but you get an overdraft, it is not a good sign, your account is negative and will need some attention to get it back up to a positive balance. Well, the U.S. GDP is similar, albeit what I am presenting is very simplistic. GDP represents all the U.S. income and output (stuff made, sold, and services provided) for the country.

It is usually a tremendous amount. So now that we have lost 1/3 of the GDP, what if it continues? By the way, this is the most significant drop in GDP in recent history. Now you should understand that most of this decrease is due to the onset of the novel coronavirus.

Dealing with this pandemic also means that the rate of hunger and homelessness has also increased to proportions not seen since the Great Depression. Recent Census data shows that 30 million Americans went hungry at least once during the past week.

The current condition only compounds in the coming months, with more unemployment, scarce resources being depleted. As Dr. Fauci stated, this is only the first wave of the pandemic in our country; come fall, they expect a second wave, which may be much worse.

Back to the question, So what do we invest in? Here is a definition of what it means to invest. To “invest” means “to expend money with the expectation of achieving a profit or material result by putting it into financial plans, shares, or property, or by using it to develop a commercial venture.” To all the farmers and ranchers, you and your family probably have a fantastic understanding of this principle of self-reliance.

For the rest of us, what are we doing to “achieve a profit or material result?” Here are my top responses to this question (in no particular order). Education: complete a higher education plan.

These days, a high school diploma will not get you very far. Even an undergraduate degree would make you more marketable in the future of limited employment options. Learn a trade.

This may fall into the get-an-education department, but knowing a trade can get you a job. I was once asked how I learned to be a plumber, electrician and contractor.

My response was that I read and asked a lot of questions of tradesman and offered to apprentice for free. I volunteered and learned a lot of useful trade knowledge.

At the least, you will be able to change out the toilet when it breaks or fix a light switch that does not work. The art of being a tradesman is slowly disappearing and there are benefits to working outside and building stuff. Learn to garden. Start a garden, learn how to grow produce that can be bottled for future use or for sale.

If a group of people got together and started a hydroponics garden, you could grow produce year round. You know everyone will be on your doorstep once Walmart and Bashas’ run out of food. Become a rancher, invest in livestock. I invested in chickens, which are about all I can handle, and once those eggs start rolling in, mmmm, yummy omelet.

Of course, if you want to get into the ranching game, there are limitations and guidelines, hard to do if you do not have a grazing permit, but that should not stop you from researching other avenues and maybe you can create a cooperative agreement with someone who has a grazing permit and work with livestock with them.

Build and sell online. Many products can be made at home and sold online. You can see those with the entrepreneurial spirit selling on Etsy or Facebook all the time. Start a day care. This is one of the fastest-growing segments of child care or housekeeping services in the country.

This explosion of need is based upon those working individuals who have children at home with nothing to do. So, to fully answer the question, invest in yourself, your family. Become self-reliant and self-sustaining. Work and enjoy the fruits of your labors.

You never know, you may become the next great online chef and teach others to create local dishes with your creative flair. Our people have always persevered, but the bottom line: Sitting around and playing video games is not going to get you paid. (Unless you are very good and go professional, that’s a whole other story.)

If you are interested in developing a micro-business model, starting your own business, or getting some information on where you can get more details for your ideas, I can offer you some help and guidance. Please contact me at tntimo9@yahoo.com.

Timothy Nelson
Leupp, Ariz.

Issues go back to land held in trust

Critical issues have emerged in last week’s Navajo Times concerning our future as Dineh. There is a light of hope, but these issues must be understood and supported by all Navajo voters alike.

First, small business owners claim they were shut down and then pushed aside from COVID-19 aid while restaurant chains like Burger King opened back up on our reservation.

Then there was an appeal about how cultural integrity can sustain us during this pandemic. This coming from former Navajo President Albert Hale in a half-page advertisement.

Furthermore, and a slam dunk at that, is an editorial from a Columbia University graduate Sam Rutzick, who spelled out how the federal government holds tribal reservations hostage, denying tribes from ever developing or building capital (beeso) for a viable economy on a reservation – all reservations across this country.

These are matters of great importance and need to be at the forefront in the next Navajo presidential and Council delegate elections. From here on, Navajo voters need to start electing individuals who will support changing the “land in trust” status.

I implore you to digest these ideas as a great step to “self-determination.” It is evident that the federal government’s “land in trust” is the root of poverty on reservations across this country.

“Land in trust” has obliterated our right to economic justice. “Land in trust” has cheated us by suppressing our chance at social equality. “Land in trust” has built undeniable economic power for city of Gallup and other border towns, who then turn around and treat us like the segregated South. “Land in trust” recycles homelessness in border towns and perpetuates sore images of Natives begging and panhandling to support their habits.

Isn’t it an even bitter irony that America is a land of opportunity for everyone except Native people in their reservations? Now, in case you were dozing off in American history 101 college class, here’s a quick history review: “Indian removal” was designed by Indian fighter Andrew Jackson in 1840s to settle land in the West under a policy named Manifest Destiny. Monroe Doctrine preceded Manifest Destiny.

Anyway, out here, Kit Carson subsequently fulfilled Jackson’s policy by rounding up our ancestors in the dead of winter to drive them to Hweeldi. The fact that Navajos were removed in January was to decimate them in mass portions.

Why march the poor Dineh to Santa Fe and not a straight route southeastward to Ft. Sumner? Again, so as to annihilate Dineh in mass numbers. Most tribes in the U. S., except Pueblos and Hopis, were removed from their original lands. So do you see the inhumanity of Manifest Destiny, or Monroe Doctrine? The reservation concept came from these same policies.

After all, what do reservations really reserve? Poverty and ignorance now that most of our traditionalists and medicine people have gone. Public housing in inner cities like Chicago or East L.A. and other ghettos were designed and implemented with the same intent as our reservation – for people to suffer from poverty and eventually perish through self-destruction from drugs, alcohol and violence.

Now why do our elected leaders, or division directors turn a blind eye year after year, decade after decade? Because we continue to vote for and appoint short-sighted people to lead us.

A couple of Navajo president elections back, a young man who was also a lawyer entered the Navajo presidential race. I have never met this gentleman, but if someone were to start turning the tide in Washingdoon, it would have been him.

Yet, we, the Navajo voters, blocked him by throwing a barrier to eliminate him. We are our own worst enemy. Why should we elect a president to hang with us at our chapter house? Isn’t it more important to have a president who will go to and talk to Washindoon to influence policymaking in Congress where money is earmarked for our schools, hospitals and housings?

Dineh bizaad is fundamental, but to eliminate a presidential candidate based on his absence of Native language was ignorant because his skill was obviously his profession as a lawyer and his ability to talk to the “suits” in Washington. Ultimately, changing the feds’ “land in the trust” for the “poor Indians” will call for profound diligence and indefinite efforts by our Navajo leaders.

The legal battle in itself will be extraordinary. And the climate is right. In light of reactions to the current civil rights marches, a possible Biden victory and, let’s not forget, the recent Supreme Court decisions siding for Native rights – the time is right.

Finally after 200-plus years of “being shackled in poverty,” to use the words of Martin Luther King Jr., Native people should go to bat for economic justice. As Hale has stated in the last issue of Navajo Times, although his reference is to revitalizing Dineh values, his words appropriately apply here: “We are at that wall. It is time to choose.”

Eve Little
Tahchee/Blue Gap, Ariz.


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