How the pandemic cannabis boom led to chaos on the Navajo Nation https://t.co/mU3DArGNY5
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) May 9, 2021
This could be a Hillerman novel, except that none of the ends have been tied up (yet). From the BBC, “A tale of cannabis boom and bust”:
When Xia (not her real name) first heard about the job as a “flower cutter”, she pictured roses.
Details were scant, but a roommate told her it was 10 days’ work for $200 a day, room and board included. Unemployed in the pandemic and unable to send money back to her adult children in southern China, Xia had been living at one of the crowded boarding houses common in the large Asian immigrant enclave of LA’s San Gabriel Valley. The job sounded like a fine temporary solution.
In early October, Xia and five other women made the 11-hour drive to the outskirts of Farmington, a small city nestled in the stunning but sparsely-populated high desert of northern New Mexico. When they arrived, their new boss checked them into a bright pink, roadside motel called the Travel Inn.
In a series of rooms on the first floor, Xia and her co-workers sat in chairs around heaps of plant material that were delivered by rental van in the night, trimming the “flowers” off the top. These were definitely not roses – the fan-leafed plants reminded Xia of àicǎo, or silvery wormwood, which the Chinese burn to ward off mosquitoes. The piles smelled so strongly that the odour hung around the motel like a cloud.
But for the moment, Xia was content. A convivial middle-aged mother of two, she had worked many jobs since arriving in the US in 2015 – home carer, nanny, masseuse. This was a lot less lonely…
The view from the top of Bea Redfeather’s property on the Navajo Nation is breathtaking and severe. To the southwest is the cathedral-like Tsé Bitʼaʼí, or Shiprock pinnacle, a giant rock which rises nearly 1,580ft (480m) from the desert floor. Redfeather, a petite, 59-year-old tax accountant and silversmith, has lived here almost 30 years.
“This was peaceful,” she says, looking out over the horizon. “Calming.”
All that changed in early June, when Redfeather saw an enormous lorry jostling down the narrow frontage road that separates her property from her neighbour’s. A group of men got out and started unloading equipment into the empty field.
It astonished Redfeather that on a reservation where new development is tightly controlled by tribal bureaucracy, a large-scale farming operation was going up across the street without her even hearing about it. The Navajo Nation was also struggling with a severe coronavirus outbreak, one of the worst in the country, and movement on and off the reservation was supposed to be tightly controlled…
Not long afterwards, Redfeather says that San Juan River Farm Board president Dineh Benally drove up, and came over to speak to her. She says he asked her how they could resolve the situation.
“I says, ‘I’m going to stop you and what you’re doing.’ And you could see it in him. He was angry,” she recalls.
Benally, a former civil engineer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the eldest son of a formidable tribal politician, was well known for his ambition to introduce the profitable cultivation of hemp and marijuana on the reservation…