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Press Release

Readout of Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer’s Trip to the Navajo Nation and to the Pueblo of Acoma

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, May 21, and Wednesday, May 22, Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer (AASG Mizer or Acting Associate) visited Window Rock, Arizona, and the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico to participate in government-to-government meetings with Tribal leaders and other officials from the Navajo Nation and the Pueblo of Acoma. He also toured the Tribes’ facilities to learn more about government services offered to the Tribes’ members and met with law enforcement officers, victims’ advocates, and other stakeholders.   

While meeting with these Tribal Nations, the Acting Associate highlighted the Justice Department’s engagement on critical issues including Tribal justice administration, public safety, and victims’ services – all of which the Department supports through grant funding, strategic engagement, and collaboration with Tribal law enforcement. He was joined by Acting Director Daron T. Carreiro of the Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ) throughout the trip.

Acting Associate Attorney General Mizer’s trip to Arizona and New Mexico is the latest in a series of government-to-government meetings with Tribal Nations across Indian Country. Under this Administration, several senior Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, former Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, former OTJ Director Tracy Toulou, Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Director Rosie Hidalgo, and Access to Justice (ATJ) Director Rachel Rossi have traveled to states such as Alaska, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Oklahoma to meet with American Indian and Alaska Native community leaders, members, and stakeholders.

These visits are part of the Justice Department’s continued efforts to strengthen ties to Indian Country, elevate the voices and concerns of American Indians and Alaska Natives, and reinforce the Department’s commitment to supporting Tribal sovereignty and investing additional resources to tackle Tribal issues.

Meeting with Navajo Nation Executive Leadership

In Window Rock, Arizona – the capital of the Navajo Nation – Acting Associate Attorney General Mizer began his visit by meeting with Navajo Nation President Dr. Buu Nygren, Attorney General Ethel Branch Esq., and Chief Legal Counsel Bidtah Becker Esq. Deputy Attorney General Heather Clah Esq., Deputy Chief of Staff Kris Beecher Esq., MBA, and others also attended the meeting. They recognized the work and collaboration between the Nation and the Department, identified challenges and areas of opportunity, and discussed various concerns, including prosecutorial declinations, public safety funding gaps, recruitment and retention of law enforcement officers, and the transport of uranium and potentially other radioactive materials across Tribal lands.

After meeting with the executive branch, the Acting Associate addressed members of the 25th Navajo Nation Council and delivered welcoming remarks highlighting the Justice Department’s efforts to enhance Tribes’ access to Department grants and resources. He described initiatives to streamline existing funding opportunities and identify new ones that can help enhance Tribal justice systems and law enforcement, combat domestic and sexual violence, and provide support for victims of crimes. In addition, he heard presentations from the Utah Navajo Health System and the Navajo Nation Office of the Prosecutor.

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Navajo Nation AG Branch (left), Navajo Nation President Nygren (center), and AASG Mizer, seated.
AASG Mizer listens to presentations and participates in a discussion with representatives from the 25th Navajo Nation Council, Navajo Nation Office of the Prosecutor, and Utah Navajo Health System.
AASG Mizer (right) gives remarks during discussion with various Navajo Nation representatives with Navajo Nation Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty to his left.
AASG Mizer (back row, third from left) following meetings with Navajo Nation government officials.

Touring Navajo Nation Facilities and Meetings with Judicial Branch Leadership and Prosecutors

Following his meetings with President Nygren and members of the Navajo Nation Council, the Acting Associate Attorney General toured the Nation’s various criminal justice system facilities starting with the judicial buildings for the Navajo Nation Supreme Court and Window Rock District Court. During the stop, he spoke with Navajo Nation Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne and Associate Justice Eleanor Shirley about the Court’s funding needs; innovative, community-centered approaches to administering Tribal law, including the Navajo Nation Peacemaking Program; and efforts to create pipelines for more professional opportunities on the Nation.

The Acting Associate then toured the Window Rock District Police Department, where he was briefed by Tribal officials on law enforcement challenges in bolstering public safety, including the housing of offenders and resources for victims of crime.

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Associate Justice Shirley (left), Chief Justice Jayne (center), and AASG Mizer.

After the tour, he met with Navajo Nation Chief Prosecutor Vernon L. Jackson Sr. and staff to learn more about the Nation’s efforts to hold bad actors accountable for crimes, as well as how the Justice Department, through its U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the FBI, can better partner with Tribal law enforcement and officials to address their critical needs.

Meetings with Pueblo of Acoma Leadership

On Wednesday, May 22, Acting Associate Attorney General Mizer continued his travels through Indian Country with engagements with members of the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico. At Acoma, he had the opportunity to meet with Governor Randall Vicente, First Lieutenant Governor Wendell Chino, and Second Lieutenant Governor Ted Ortiz, as well as other Tribal officials. The group discussed public safety challenges, Tribal courts, cultural resources and patrimony, and water rights, among other topics.

Other Engagements  

During his time in New Mexico, Acting Associate Attorney General Mizer also met with members of the All Pueblo Council of Governors, including Tribal leaders from the Pueblos of Santa Clara, Tesuque, Zia, and Zuni. He also met with staff and Native American law students at the American Indian Law Center’s Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indians and Alaska Natives, where he discussed the Department’s role in upholding the United States’ trust and treaty obligations for Tribes as well as clerkships and other careers in the law. Additionally, he met with the U.S. Attorney and staff for the District of New Mexico.

Justice Department Resources to Address the Unique Needs of Indian Country

The Navajo Nation and Pueblo of Acoma are currently administering over $8.5 million through 14 active awards from across the Justice Department. These funds help to provide the Navajo Nation and Pueblo of Acoma with the resources needed to address issues pertaining to violence against women, criminal reentry, and law enforcement funding. In addition, among other duties, OTJ serves as the dedicated point of contact and hub of experts for legal and political issues unique to Indian Country. In line with a whole-of-Department approach, the Department previously announced the hiring of additional Assistant U.S. Attorneys and support staff to serve Native communities nationwide bolstering other efforts by the Department, including supporting prosecutors in responding to sexual assault and domestic violence and addressing the crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons.

Updated May 24, 2024

Press Release Number: 24-669