Environmentally friendly businesses could be option for returning Navajo
Tahnibaa Naataanii demonstrates an automated wool spinner during Green Awareness Day at lndian Wells Elementary School Friday. The event featured a variety of informative booths and speakers. (Gallup Independent photo - Brian Leddy)
INDIAN WELLS- When young Navajo men and women leave the Navajo Nation to pursue higher education, they are told "get an education and then come back home and help your people." But a college degree does not guarantee a job when they return.
That is why Claudia Jackson, ofNavajo Green Jobs,believes that by looking to the Navajo government for a job is not necessary. She thinks that instead of waiting for progress from the Navajo government, establishing a green job that would benefit the Navajo Nation as well as the individual would be a better solution.
That is why Navajo Green Jobs, along with many other organizations, held the Green Awareness Day event Friday at Indian Wells Elementary School to inform the community about the positive possibilities of going green.
"A lot of educated kids come back and say they have no jobs," Jackson said. "So we had this awareness to educated people want green jobs are and what businesses they van start. Don't look to the Navajo Government for a job; instead go back to you community and grow businesses from your community."
Working with an organization known as Eagle Energy, which sells small solar panel, Melton Martinez is determined to spread the word of this product that will better the lives of many rural Navajo communities and the environment. Smaller in size and lower in price compared to the larger scale solar panels, these small panels are on step to reducing the toxic use of coal power plants and uranium mining.
"We did a survey and found that our people can't afford $20,000 or $30,000 solar panels," Martinez said. "So we brought this small solar panel just to prevent them from using gas, propane, car and flashlight batteries, candles and kerosene. All these are toxic. If we can spread these small solar panels they can use (them) a lot for their lighting. They are small and affordable."
Graylyn Hudson, left, shows Clinton Kanuho information during the Green Awaréness Day at lndian Wells Elementary School Friday. (Gallup Independent photo - Brian Leddy)
The organization known as Dine Be'iina Inc., located in Shiprock, puts emphasis on connecting with the pastoral way of living. This organization came out to the event to inform the community of the many versatile uses of the Churro sheep wool. By being able to use the wool, anyone can produce merchandise that can be sold. That is why the organization will be visiting many different communities to offer a class, known as Spin Off, that will teach and support individual projects that utilize wool.
"We are teaching the community to add value to wool. That is why Dine Be'Iina supports the communities to reconnect their focus, reconnect their love to the pastoral way of living," Dine Be'Iina Project Director, Tahnibaa Naataannii said. "That is why we will be having a Spin-Off here in Indian Wells. This is a monthly gathering of artists, sheep herders, and arts and crafts people who will come together and talk about their project and share ideas."
One major obstacle that Navajo Green Jobs identifies is the lack of support from the Navajo Nation Presiden Ben Shelly, who vetoed the Navajo Green Economy Commission operating budget to create the green economy office. The support from the Navajo Nation council gave the Navajo Green Economy Commission $357,000 which was then line-item vetoed by President Shelly. A new budget is being proposed by the Speaker of the House's office to restore funding.
"We've been trying to meet with him since January," Navajo Green Commission Chair Anna Rondon said. "We can't get an audience with President Shelly. We want green jobs. We want clean green economy. When we think of green economy we need to look at climate justice, our communities will be hit hard not the Navajo government by climate change."
RC Henry Martinez, center in green, and Paddy Martinez, center in black, demonstrate their solar lights to event-goers during the Green Awareness Day at lndian Wells Elementary School Friday. (Gallup Independent photo - Brian Leddy)
The Climate Change Education Project of Northern Arizona University came out to educate the local effects of climate change. Nikki Cooley, who works with the project, brought two games to help showcase how chemicals in the air effect climate. These games are some of the many tools that the project creates for teachers to teach their students about the effects of climate change.
Educating the community in Indian Wells will be the first of many scheduled Green Awareness Events that will be happening throughout the Navajo Nation. Different chapters have already inquired about getting the event to their communities, Jackson said.
"We are going to continue to educate our families and communities," Rondon said. "That is where it starts."