Letters: VP guilty of conflict of interest

There are numerous tribal regulations requiring the Dineh Nation to establish policies and procedures addressing employee conduct, ethics and conflicts of interest.

These requirements address the internal tribal government organization, as well as its relationship to tribal clients and to the outside world. The issues that these include are political activities, job functions, business eligibility determination, financial relationships, familial relationships, supervisory relationships, and many others.

The conduct of Vice President Myron Lizer campaigning for Trump is clearly an example of a conflict of interest and it is up to the president and the Council to address this immediately.

As we witnessed on TV, the vice president did not clarify if he was there as an individual or as a representative of the Dineh Nation. It was obvious his intention was to leave the impression he was there representing the Navajo people and that the Navajo people support Trump. This is an example of an ethical violation that is one of the most egregious conflicts of interest by a tribal official.

After he traveled to Phoenix for a Trump campaign event, the Council admonished both him and the president. In addition, there were strong words conveyed by the Council that the tribe should not be paying his expenses. The Council also sent a stern message to President Nez he needed to address this immediately with Vice President Lizer.

I do not know how President Nez feels about this, but these can be very damaging for not just public relations, but also to the credibility of the tribal government, the Council and the Office of the President and Vice President. Unfortunately, President Nez did not take the Council’s directive seriously because Vice President Lizer continued to attend Trump events and without assurance the tribe not paying his expenses.

If there are numerous violations, this can lead to losing entire programs, a loss of some of your best staff and the tribal losing out on partnering opportunities because some entities may not want to do business with the tribe. Just because something is legal that in and of itself does not make it ethical. Because of the multiple roles individuals play in their daily lives, they inherently possess many different interests and loyalties.

We elected Vice President Lizer to be a steward of the Navajo people’s trust, and to put the Navajo people’s interest before his own. So far, he has put his personal and other interests ahead of the Navajo people’s interest. Both the president and vice president should have a higher standard of ethics and responsibility to the Navajo people than a lower level tribal leader or official.

It is for that and many other reasons, either President Nez must deal with this situation immediately by counseling Vice President Lizer to resign, or hand it over to the appropriate committee or the Council to handle. The point is, Mr. President, I believe you know there are many things you can lack and still have the confidence of the people.

However, given what we now know of what appears to be a lack of accountability, the wrong people with the wrong skills in the wrong place, is a formula for disaster.

Wallace Hanley
Window Rock, Ariz.

Shocked at Lizer’s support of Trump

I cannot fathom how the vice president of the Navajo Nation, Myron Lizer, can give his support the most despicable politician our nation has ever known. I am shocked if he speaks for the Navajo Nation, a nation that has been vilified and suffered under the current administration.

(Trump) has shown great disdain for Native Americans and contributed to the deaths of many because of his lack of support to sovereign states. If the Native American nations do not agree with his message, I encourage you and other nations to unite and speak for the people whose voices are not heard.

Linda Salas
San Francisco, Calif.

Hoarding CARES Act monies a life-or-death matter

There is a crisis within the Navajo tribal government, which requires immediate action. This crisis is the lack of expenditure of CARES Act monies and private donations.

This is a life-and-death situation. Where is the tribe’s emergency preparedness plan? Where is President Nez’s deployment of OMB’s staff to the divisions to get budget preparations done, if this is the hold up? He should not be watching various tribal government departments create barriers to the timely allocation of resources.

The common expression is letting the tail wag the dog. The gossip out here is that when new tribal leaders get elected some of the tribal staff refers to them as dumb and dumber. Instead of assisting the new leaders, they create barriers.

If contracts are to be developed there are published industry standards so one does not have to re-invent the wheel. Thank God Peterson Zah and Bill Richardson had the wherewithal to establish a gifting site outside the tribal government.

I am praying to God that something is done soon so the Navajo Tribe is not viewed as a bunch of bungling idiots. The federal government and others will say, “We tried to help them and look at what they did.”

Stella Phoenix Webster
Farmington, N.M.

Wake up, Window Rock

This is in response to the recent San Juan River Farm Board’s recent removal of Gadii’ahi’s Farm Board representative, Gilbert Harrison, citing personnel issues as their basis for removal.

This resolution was brought to the board by Upper Fruitland’s farm official, Albert Lee, but read by Farm Board President Dineh Benally. So that leaves Benally and his three cronies — Jean Jones, Albert Lee and Harrison Cly — left on the board to fulfill Benally’s dream of his illegal hemp empire.

As we read in a previous Navajo Times article, the farm board first removed Nenahnezad’s farm official, Tracy Raymond. It’s to no surprise, both Nenahnezad and Gadii’ahi farm officials do not agree with Benally’s consistent drive to build his illegal hemp empire. They are both aware there are no written hemp regulations that were approved by the farm board, as no one seems to have a copy of it.

So that leaves Benally and his cronies from Hogback, Upper Fruitland and San Juan chapters to agree with no questions asked, to continue on with illegal hemp business.

The farm board meeting included public concerns and issues, but Benally was not able to address a resident’s concerns that were submitted in writing to the board.

Benally kept deferring to his lawsuit citing the issue is in ligation, although in the farm board’s plan of operation it cites any disputes would be resolved by the board. If disputes are not resolved, the written complaint will be submitted to the Resources and Development Committee on any problems that the farm board is unable to resolve or lacks authority.

My suggestion is that Upper Fruitland’s farm official, Albert Lee, should do another resolution to remove Benally from the farm board, citing conflict of interest.

As farm board president, he should be able to address all concerns and issues, regardless if it pertains to illegal hemp. If he cannot resolve the issue, then he needs to get off the board. So remove Dineh Benally.

My second suggestion to the Gadii’ahi, Shiprock and Hogback residents who have issues regarding illegal hemp activities, consistent harassment by foreigners to lease their farm plots to grow “vegetables,” traffic or criminal activities, or issues with Benally and his farm board cronies. Address your concerns to the Navajo Nation Council delegates, Council’s Resource and Development Committee members and Attorney General Doreen McPaul.

We all know that the Shiprock police continue to disregard all complaints about the activities that go on at the illegal hemp farms. As community members, we report these activities to the police department, but it’s at the discretion of the police dispatcher and sergeant to decide if they want to assign an officer to complete a written report.

The chief of police indicated over a public radio forum to report illegal hemp activities to their local police department, but no one is available to do reports, so we are in a Catch-22 — we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Just imagine how many complaints are coming into the police department that is going unreported.

What a shame. We continue to hear and see the constant harassment by Benally’s guests who prey on our elders to lease their farmlands to grow vegetables. I did not know illegal hemp was a “vegetable.” Shame on you, Dineh Benally, and your cronies and guests.

The Navajo Nation, executive, legislative and judicial branch, need to pull up their pants, put on their boots and begin to address these on-going issues in our communities.

We have been trying to voice our issues and concerns to deaf ears in Window Rock. Don’t give into Dineh Benally’s pipe dreams of being the Navajo Nation’s first drug lord. What example are you showing the people and others, if you make exceptions to his blatant disregards to our laws? Think about it!

Malinda Notah
Gadii’ahi, N.M.

Nation must take strong stance against hemp farms

The industrial hemp having sprung up on numerous private farms in Shiprock, by Dineh Benally, without existing Navajo law, now the Navajo Nation government has filed legal action to stop Benally.

Up to the current time, it had appeared the Navajo government couldn’t confront the hemp problem, which gave the impression that the Navajo government has weakened to a point where no leadership has taken strong action against the illegal growing of hemp products.

Therefore, Benally has strong-armed the Navajo government, including the local chapter government leadership with an accelerated growth of industrial hemp. Such activity without government involvement exemplifies a weakened leadership of our governments at best.

Why didn’t the central Navajo government act immediately by letting the Division of Economic Development confront Benally to stop his illegal business activity? Within DED, there is a department called Business Regulatory and the Shiprock Regional Business Development Office that has the authority to control all business activities on the Navajo to comply with the Navajo business code.

The past record of Benally shows that he failed in the RV park business whereby he supposedly owed great loan debt to the Nation, including failure to follow business reports requirements. Such has resulted in “blacklisting” him not doing any further business on the Nation. His RV park business lease has been cancelled and the land was returned to the Nation. However, Benally has currently control and possession of the RV park where numerous hemp greenhouses are operating.

The area was supposedly granted to the Navajo Nation Tourism Department to be developed. If this is in fact true, then Benally is trespassing and using the land for unlawful gain. Such activity is gross negligence giving rise to criminal activity. Now, the Navajo Nation has sued Benally in Shiprock District Court where Benally’s lawyer is obviously maneuvering the court to gain more time so he can continue to build hemp greenhouses.

When all is done and when such time that Benally loses, he undoubtedly will demand compensation for what he built, including materials, time and labor. This is a tactic by a ruthless individual looking only for himself to profit.

Benally’s businesses are not registered with the business regulatory, so he is without any corporate veil and anything he is wrongfully doing he is personally liable leaving his personal assets unprotected. In the end, Benally will be stripped of his effort to any furtherance of hemp production.

It is very likely all traces of hemp growth on individual farms will be eradicated and all materials will be confiscated by the Nation. It is likely Benally will be fined heavily for a business that is not codified. Further, criminal offenses may be instigated involving federal authorities, because land-use permits, including farming operations, are regulated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, so any such infraction of illegal use of farming can instigate federal violation. Individual Shiprock farmers are also in trouble.

The BIA has regulated subletting of farms and it is the BIA who has the authority to approve sub-letting of farming operations. The procedure to sublet farms is totally ignored by Benally. However, such ignorance has left the individual farmers with land-use permit penalties.

Such penalties can strip them of land-use permit and a heavy fine. All of Benally’s workers who are non-Navajos will be heavily fined — some may face federal criminal charges and finally they will be ostracized to never step foot on Navajo Nation soil.

The Navajo Nation government must act to never allow any person, whether Navajo or not, to take laws into their hands to do what is against Navajo law, Navajo custom and tradition, and the law must speak loud to make example here to never underestimate the Navajo people and its government.

The Navajo courts must deliver severe penalties against Benally, his non-Navajo workers, and the individual Navajo farmers who unlawfully sublet their farms.

Bea Redfeather
Shiprock, N.M.

Diné have tradition of ‘cleansing’ bad elements

The execution of Lezmond Mitchell was the right thing to do. He was a “bad” man. It served justice. Further, the Navajo Nation Council should not have introduced the legislation asking to stop it.

From the beginning, when the Europeans first came, they described the Pueblos as “the peaceful ones” and the Dineh as “prone to fighting.” Seemingly, in a society dubbed “warlike,” the issue of “bad” men, killing, etc., must have come up.

It seems the creation story gives us perspective on the matter. The creation story is about survival of an infant society. It is about the people overcoming evil forces. Their goal was just to live for another day through the different worlds they traveled seeking “Hozho.” They were taught to follow “Dineh Bii Beehaz’aanii” or die. Those that followed “Dineh Beehaz aanii” survived and went on to the next world. Those that succumbed to evil forces — greed, lust of power, self-interest, etc., died.

Holy warrior Monster Slayer was instructed to fight might with might as he beheaded “Yeii Tsoh” and others who terrorized Dinetah. It was seemingly a cleansing type thing to rid evil forces to get to “Hozho.” During war, Manuelito, great war chief and medicine man, agreed with the U.S. that there are “bad” men in all societies.

Subsequently, after Hweeldi, he led the execution of 40 Dineh who they believed broke “Dineh Bii Beehaz’aanii.” Many others fled to escape death. It was a seemingly cleansing type thing to rid bad forces and get to “Hozho.”

Today, the predator broke “Dineh Bii Beehaz’aanii” by killing two good people for reasons of greed, etc. He was a “bad” man, but the Nation backed him up — instead of backing up his victims. In this case, it seems the Nation got it wrong — big time.

Simply, it did not protect the good people as past leaders had done. Instead, it left a deep gash in the society that now needs healing. Consequently, the victim’s relatives proclaimed to the world that the Nation does not represent them. To this, there are citizens — including medicine people — that also say the Nation does not represent them.

Extremists even claim Window Rock represents lust for power, greed, self-interest, etc. — the very things that our ancestors fought against. This brings up the issue of the legitimacy of the Nation to represent the people.

In looking at it, post-Hweeldi, the U.S. established the present Western-type government. In doing so, U.S. deliberately left out the traditional leaders and medicine people.

In short, the U.S. established a “puppet” government not representative of the people. They dubbed it “central government” for the people. Pre-Hweeldi, the people never had a “central government.” Narbona, great war chief and medicine man, proclaimed that the Dineh believed no one man (or group) has the right to speak for all the people.

In addition, (even today) medicine people say that the “central government” was not established according to the “Dineh Bii Beehaz’ aanii.” They see it as a foreign object to benefit the U.S. and not necessarily to benefit the people. The “puppet” government has made great strides working with traditionalists toward truly representing all the people, but even today it seems it has some ways to go yet.

The Nation needs to close this gap with the disenfranchised, frustrated, the extremist to be more legitimate. Accordingly, we need to get back to the teaching of “Dineh Bii Beehaz’aanii” as we seek “Hozho.”

Lastly, this information is available at Diné College — serving as a center for “Dineh Bii Beehaz’aanii” teaching.

Raymond Yazzie
Window Rock, Ariz.


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