Going green for Navajo is all natural

Karen 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, said.

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 construct buildings.

The community summit brought professionals who have been working on the initiative to young students that attended.

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 Speaker.

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.

Information: www.navajogreenjobs.com


Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html