Navajo Nation passes green jobs legislation, 62-1

 

Some 50 Navajos -- including elders and youth and those in-between -- donned green shirts today and filled the chambers of the Navajo Nation Council to promote legislation designed to transform the reservation’s mineral and fossil fuel-based economy into a sustainable, community-based, green system. The show of support paid off: The Council passed the legislation by a vote of 62 to 1.  According to Enei Begaye, who spearheaded a coalition to create the legislation, it is the first tribal government initiative to create green jobs policy and structure. Undoubtedly ambitious -- combining traditional culture, web-based marketing and cutting-edge green technologies -- the plan could transform the Navajo Nation and serve as a model for other tribes.

The legislation will establish a commission to implement projects in seven areas: renewable energy (large-scale and small), green manufacturing (focused on traditional crafts such as rug-weaving, combined with sophisticated marketing and PR campaigns), sustainable agriculture, weatherizing and making energy-efficient traditional and nontraditional homes, green workforce training, management training, and a small business initiative.

A series of 10 pilot projects will launch the program, along with research on current job opportunities and a needs assessment. The legislation will also create “green teams” which will support community initiatives and help with business plans.

Organizer Enei Begaye grew up in a coal-mining region of the Navajo Nation. The daughter of painter Shonto Begay, she went to Stanford, and in 2001 became the director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, which worked to close the Mohave Generating Station. The power plant used Navajo Aquifer water to slurry Black Mesa coal from northern Arizona to Laughlin, Nevada. And while the tribe got money from the project, use of the aquifer drained traditional water sources on Indian land. The plant closed in 2006, after ignoring federally-mandated pollution controls and failing to reach agreements with tribal leaders on coal and water leases. Some 200 native people lost jobs because of the closure, tribal coffers suffered from lack of royalties, and putting food on the table became the primary concern. The Black Mesa Water Coalition cites these grim statistics, revealing the situation even before the closure:

According to the Navajo Nation's 2000-2001 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, the nation's unemployment rate is 44 percent, the median family income is $11,885, and the per capita income is $6,217. Over 56 percent of Navajos live below the poverty level, the highest poverty rate in the U.S., even among American Indians. At the same time, 68 percent of Navajo monies are spent in off-reservation communities. Of the 676 private employers, only 35 percent are Navajo-owned.

The Coalition filed a motion with the California Public Utilities Commission against the power plant's majority owner, Southern California Edison, to reclaim $20 million a year in SO2 allowances for Navajo wind and solar projects, Begaye realized the Nation lacked a system to use the funds wisely. The epiphany inspired the coalition that worked to write the legislation, including the Black Mesa Water Coalition, Sierra Club, New Energy Economy/1Sky NM, Grand Canyon Trust, New Mexico Youth Organized and Dine C.A.R.E.

“It feels really good to do something proactive,” says Begaye, “to be going to our council and saying, ‘Let’s do this positive thing’ instead of ‘Don’t do that.’”

 

 

 

High Country News Classifieds
  • OLIVERBRANCH CONSULTING
    Non-Profit Management Professional specializing in Transitional Leadership, Strategic Collaborations, Communications and Grant Management/Writing.
  • SAGE GROUSE CCAA COORDINATOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, headquartered in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a full-time Sage Grouse CCAA Coordinator. This position is part of a collaborative effort...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST
    Executive Director, Okanogan Land Trust Position Announcement Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, family farms, challenging politics, and big conservation opportunities? Do you have...
  • GREAT VIEWS, SMALL FOOTPRINT
    Close to town but with a secluded feel, this eco-friendly home includes solar panels, a graywater reuse system, tankless hot water, solar tubes, and rainwater...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Organize with Northern Plains Resource Council to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Starts $35.5k. Apply now- northernplains.org/careers
  • BEAUTIFUL, AUTHENTIC LIVE YULE LOG CENTERPIECE
    - beautiful 12" yule log made from holly wood, live fragrant firs, rich green and white holly, pinecones and red berries. $78 includes shipping. Our...
  • CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS FOR THE INDIAN UNIVERSITY OF NORTH AMERICA
    Crazy Horse Memorial, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is currently accepting applications and nominations for the Director of Programs for The Indian University...
  • CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL® MANAGER OF RESIDENCE LIFE FOR THE INDIAN UNIVERSITY OF NORTH AMERICA®
    Crazy Horse Memorial is currently accepting applications for the Manager of Residence Life for The Indian University of North America. This position is responsible for...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Are you an art lover who dreams of living in the mountains? Is fundraising second nature to you? Do you have experience managing creative people?...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Public Lands Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting the multiple-use management of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, seeks an experienced leader...
  • COLD WEATHER CRAFTS
    Unique handmade gifts from the Gunnison Valley. Soy lotion candles, jewelry, art, custom photo mandalas and more. Check out the website and buy Christmas locally...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    North Cascades Institute seeks their next Executive Director to lead the organization, manage $4 million operating budget, and oversee 60 staff. Send resume/cover letter to...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.