Going green for Navajo is all natural
Francis, Diné Bureau, Gallup
Independent, JANUARY 19, 2009
WINDOW ROCK — The tradition of the Navajo
people long ago was to live a sustainable life in harmony
with the earth.
Navajo people would tend to the cornfields
to provide nourishment and build hogans out of natural
materials for shelter.
So today’s Navajo Green Job initiative
builds upon the traditions of the Diné, presenters
said during the Power Shift to Navajo Green Jobs community
summit Saturday at the Navajo Nation Museum.
The summit was attended by dozens of
youths who listened to panel discussions in the morning
and went into breakout sessions in the afternoon.
For some of the panelists, Navajo green
jobs have a deeply personal meaning.
“Going back to our traditions, I think
we have been practicing those all these many, many generations
we have been here,” Louise Benally, a Black Mesa resident,
That changed, though, when resources
started to be mined on Navajo, she said.
Her own father, who didn’t speak, write
or read English, worked in the uranium mines and eventually
died from leukemia.
“It affects all the animals, the vegetation
of people that live in those areas. It knows no bounds.
So that’s how our people have been suffering for many,
many years and it’s ongoing.
Babies are born with birth defects that
are incurable,” Benally said.
“Green economy would make things better
in the long run,” she said. “Hopefully your grandchildren
and my grandchildren won’t be affected by exposure to
contamination of water, air, land.”
A green job could also mean a job that
is close to the community.
For Derrick Terry, he said that he knows
of many people in his generation who do not have jobs
yet have skills to be successful that are not being
utilized, especially on Navajo.
There are many people who go to live
off the reservation for months at a time to be able
to work, he added. Because of that, many Navajo children
are growing up without their father or mother, he said.
“There’s a lot of resources here on
the Navajo Nation that aren’t being taken advantage
of,” he said.
To help foster community and green economic
growth, Terry started a business that uses straw to
The community summit brought professionals
who have been working on the initiative to young students
One panel included Anna Rondon from
1 Sky NM, Tony Skrelunas from the Grand Canyon Trust
and James Davis from the Navajo Nation Office of the
Breakout sessions included community
input on the Navajo Green Jobs plan by Enei Begaye of
the Black Mesa Water Coalition, ways to start a green
business on the Navajo Nation by Skrelunas and Gordan
Issaac of KEYA Earth, youth organizing by Chelsea Chee
and Nikke Alex of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, and
integrating technology into green jobs by Terry and
Larry Ahasteen, a free lance energy consultant.