Navajo Nation pledges to go green
The Navajo Nation says it is going green.
On Tuesday, the Navajo National Council voted to enact the Navajo Green Economy Commission, which would oversee the use of federal, state and private funds for green job initiatives. Through the measure, community members could apply for funding to create projects that the commission deems "green."
"We're encouraging our people to come back and create weavers' co-ops and farmers' markets and revitalize our agriculture," said Nikke Alex, who works for the Black Mesa Water Coalition and organizes young people for the Navajo Green Jobs Coalition.
Alex said she hopes the initiative will encourage more young people to return to Navajo communities once they have graduated from college.
"A lot of people that we work with and a lot of our family members and friends, once they graduate from high school and college, they end up moving to big cities because there aren't many job opportunities out here," said Alex, who graduated from the University of Arizona in 2007.
In the past, the tribal government has fielded bids from companies seeking to mine uranium or build power plants on Navajo mineral-rich land in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. In April, the federal Environmental Protection Agency revoked an air permit for a massive coal-fired power plant on Navajo land that would have helped power cities in Arizona and Nevada.
Navajo President Joe Shirley opposed the EPA's decision, saying the coal mine would have brought needed jobs to the Navajo.
"Our people now have other job opportunities available to them," said Chelsea Chee, an organizer with the Black Mesa Water Coalition. "We're not going to be as heavily dependent on fossil fuel extraction or fossil fuel burning."
Chee added that she believes green jobs are in line with Navajo traditions. "When we pray, the first words out of our mouth are 'Mother Earth and Father Sky,' " said Chee. "We're supposed to be thinking about those two entities and trying to be in balance with how much we take and how much we give back."
-- Amy Littlefield
Photo: About 30 supporters of green jobs marched to the tribal coalition meeting Tuesday wearing green T-shirts to show their support for the creation of the Green Economy Commission. Credit: Kelvin Long, board member of Black Mesa Water Coalition, used with permission.