The Association of Farmers in Navajo Nation is calling on leaders, government, and other influential parties to assist them in peacemaking.
This follows an article published in The Los Angeles Tribune, regarding the harassment of local farmers. According to the previous article, the farmers called on the New Mexico State Legislature, along with other leaders, to pass new laws permitting the growth of hemp as well as the regulation of industrial hemp within Navajo Nation. With the lack of police assistance so far, Association members are calling on law enforcement to assist them in stopping the ill-treatment of local farmers, which has continued from early 2021, and for peacemaking in the area.
Anita Hayes, an Association member, said, “On February 8, Cathy Manus’ workers were chased off the farm and were told that greenhouses belong to Navajo Nation. She was informed that she had to get an order to release the greenhouses.”
According to Hayes, earlier in 2021, protestors returned to the farms, causing a commotion. Following this, the Environmental Protection Association (EPA) wrote up further complaints to Hayes. Hayes further explained, “The Drug Enforcement Administration also started to raid our farms, as well as Law enforcement members.”
During the raids, Hayes said, “We were demanded to step outside when the raids occurred in the early hours of the morning. We could not go back inside our homes. Farmers of the hemp initiative were crying and were left in shock.”
Hayes has been traumatised by these events, as have other farmers and association members. “We are left comforting each other,” she said.
According to association members, protests have become more aggressive since last reported. Hayes said, “They come in the house, stand at the end of our farm gates, call us all types of horrible names.”
The Association members explained that the Navajo Police also started coming onto the farms and informed the farmers that they were not allowed to be on the farms.
Another Association member, Deana Alvarado, said, “When we were raided early in the morning, we were greeted with screams from the officers. We were questioned as if we were common criminals.” Alvarado and other farmers have been continuously intimidated by groups of protestors. “They keep coming to us, threatening to burn down our homes. Now, we cannot go to the community. We cannot leave our vehicle unmanned for the fear our cars will be vandalised. I still live with fear,” expressed Alvarado.
Association member, Cathy Manus, also detailed her experiences. She said, “I have had many people call me, threatening to take away farm equipment. On other days, protestors are constantly cutting the farm gates, gaining entry and stealing my equipment. They have stolen two of my tractors and trailers. They take whatever they want.”
During these situations, affected farmers called local police for help. “Police were called but they did not assist. EPA gave me a warning, so that is another thing I have to deal with. Now, I have developed extreme anxiety, and I have lost 20 pounds because I do not eat. I am so sick of this,” said Manus.
The Association of Farmers has recently sought legal advice. Despite their cries for help and proactive attempts at resolution, these farmers still experience protesting, police harassment, and taunts.
Hayes concluded, “No one has apologised yet for what has happened. Not even the Tribal leaders.” Hayes revealed that The Tribal Council had asked the State of Mexico in one of their recommendations to see how they could help the Tribe Initiative for cannabis and hemp in the future. “We ask how we can fix this situation and how we can come together to create a better solution? Let’s all do something about this and help farmers like us get back on their feet. We have lost a lot of self-respect as a nation and now it’s time for peacemaking,” concluded Hayes.