Navajo Human Rights officials discuss frequent Navajo alcohol abuser concerns

ST. MICHAELS, Ariz. - The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission (NNHRC) met with a Grants municipal judge and community officials for the second time about alcohol abuse in Grants, N.M., on Jan. 21 at the New Mexico State University branch campus. The first meeting was held last November.

The NNHRC received a letter Oct. 5 from Honorable Elise A. Larsen, municipal judge for the city of Grants, that stated, "I have observed that one of the primary problems has been the relationship between substance abuse and the repeat criminal offenders in my court." She also stated that she is writing interested parties, including Crime Stoppers, in hopes to discuss various concerns.

"We needed straight talk. We needed to know who Judge Larsen was referring to as repeat offenders from an empirical point of view," said Leonard Gorman, NNHRC executive director. During the discussion, Judge Larsen explained that eight of the 10 repeat offenders are Navajo.

"The commission needs facts and information if there's an issue to address," Gorman said.

During the meeting, Judge Randolph Marshall Collins of Acoma Pueblo said substance abuse is high in Cibola County. Gorman believes Cibola County officials and other responsible agencies should be required to attend meetings to implement solutions aimed at regulating alcohol sales in Cibola County with new a binding Memorandum of Agreement in addition to the current unbinding MOA to improve race relations.

"There were good points made from the groups," Gorman stated. "We've created a good dialogue based on facts to find a resolution. There is plenty of time and opportunities on the table."

The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 18 in Conference Room 3 at the NMSU branch campus in Grants, N.M.

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