Navajo Nation Press Release on Injunction Granted to Stop Hemp Cultivation [Shiprock DCT]

Here is the release:

Press Release – TRO and Preliminary Injunction Granted

SHIPROCK, NAVAJO NATION—Following a full day of testimony, cross-examination, and oral argument on Thursday, Shiprock District Court Judge Genevieve Woody granted the Navajo Nation’s motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction to immediately stop defendant Dineh Benally’s illegal hemp farming activities on Friday.

“We respect the ruling of the Shiprock District Court. The ruling allows our law enforcement officers to enforce the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the production of hemp. We strongly urge everyone to respect the ruling of the court and move forward peacefully to ensure the safety of community members, police officers, and everyone in the impacted areas. Lastly, I commend the Navajo Nation Department of Justice and outside legal counsel for their commitment to this case,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

In granting the motion, Judge Woody found that the Navajo Nation had met its burden by demonstrating (1) a protected right or interest and a high likelihood of success on the merits; (2) that irreparable harm to that right is likely to occur unless a preliminary injunction is issued; (3) that harm is substantial in nature; and (4) that the moving party had no other adequate remedy at law.

In ruling from the bench, Judge Woody cited to the testimony offered on behalf of the Navajo Nation by both Navajo Nation government officials and the citizens and residents who have been directly impacted by Defendant Benally’s illegal hemp farming.

The Navajo Nation filed this lawsuit on June 12, 2020 seeking to stop the illegal and unregulated growth, production, transporting, licensing, and selling industrial hemp within the exterior boundaries of the Navajo Nation. Defendants in the case are Dineh Benally, in his personal and official capacity, the Native American Agricultural Company and Navajo Gold Company, which are both controlled by Benally.

Defendant Benally began growing hemp without Navajo Nation’s approval required by the 2018 Farm Bill and regulations of the United States Department of Agriculture. Despite his claims,

Defendant Benally also does not have the required approval of the USDA for his hemp cultivation activities. The expansion of his operation to hundreds of acres complete with “man camps” for workers, massive growth facilities that include hundreds of greenhouses has drained law enforcement resources, caused clear environmental damage, and has created substantial disharmony in the Shiprock and surrounding communities. Benally has also employed aggressive security guards that have intimidated and threatened elders, kids, and other Navajo community members. Benally has also been charged with Aggravated Assault.

“I personally experienced the intimidation and threats of Dineh Benally’s security in Shiprock while working in my official capacity in a clearly marked tribal vehicle, said Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen N. McPaul. “I am incredibly pleased with the court’s decision today, and on behalf of the Navajo Nation, I would like to offer sincere gratitude to the Nation’s witnesses who came forward to testify in what an intense and confrontational case. We are also grateful to all the community members, neighbors, and farmers who reached out to share their own stories and information about the devastating impact of hemp cultivation activities on themselves, their families, and their property.”

The Court’s action makes clear what the Navajo Nation leadership has made clear each time hemp legislation has been considered – that it is illegal on the lands of the Navajo Nation unless specifically authorized and cultivated under a properly regulated system. To date, the Navajo Nation has not approved tribal regulations for hemp cultivation nor has it submitted a hemp production plan to the USDA for approval.

The Navajo Nation is represented in this case by Charlie Galbraith and Krystalyn Kinsel of Jenner & Block, both are enrolled members of the Navajo Nation.

Trump and Republicans Denied Intervention into Navajo Nation Citizens’ Voting Rights Suit in Arizona

Here are the materials in Yazzie v. Hobbs (D. Ariz.):

1 Complaint

9 Emergency Motion for PI

12 Trump Motion to Intervene

22 State Response to 12

32 Plaintiffs Response to 12

38 Reply in Support of 12

45 DCt Order Denying Intervention

Warigia Bowman on COVID, Coal, and the Navajo Nation

Warigia M. Bowman has posted “Dikos Nitsaa’igii-19 (The Big Cough): Coal, COVID, and the Navajo Nation” on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

This essay makes the following arguments. First, the US federal government knows how to electrify remote rural areas, and has in fact electrified rural areas as remote and inaccessible as the Appalachian Mountains. Yet, the US government has failed to electrify Navajo. Second, Navajo Nation is surrounded by power plants which send electricity to Phoenix, Los Angeles, and parts distant, yet transmission lines and infrastructure have not been properly extended from those power plants to inside of Navajo Nation. Third, the health risks of residential coal burning are well known, and given the health risks of COVID-19 and the fact that underlying respiratory conditions make the Navajo quite susceptible to this disease, the need to address this infrastructure gap is urgent.

Attorney Statement Regarding the Execution of Lezmond Mitchell


“Today, the federal government added another chapter to its long history of injustices against Native American people. Over the steadfast objection of the Navajo Nation, and despite urgent pleas for clemency from Navajo leaders and many other Native American tribes, organizations, and citizens, the Trump Administration executed Lezmond Mitchell, a Navajo man, for a crime against other Navajo people committed on Navajo land.

“Mr. Mitchell’s execution represents a gross insult to the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation, whose leaders had personally called on the President to commute his sentence to life without possibility of release. The very fact that he faced execution despite the tribe’s opposition to a death sentence for him reflected the government’s disdain for tribal sovereignty.

“Mr. Mitchell’s execution came after the Supreme Court refused to allow him to interview his jurors – 11 white people and a single Navajo – about whether racial bias influenced their decision. Yet we have little doubt that it did, because in their zealous pursuit of a death sentence for Mr. Mitchell, the federal prosecutors made arguments laced with anti-Indian stereotypes.

“We have been honored to meet and work with members of the Navajo Nation and many other Native American people who sought to halt Lezmond Mitchell’s execution. We hope that the future will bring greater respect for the sovereignty of Indian nations and for the traditions of their people.”

-Jonathan Aminoff and Celeste Bacchi, Deputy Federal Public Defenders, attorneys for Lezmond Mitchell
-August 26, 2020