Foundation names Janene Yazzie 2021 Indigenous Leadership Award winner
The Alnoba Lewis Family Foundation on Sept. 30 announced that the 2021 recipient of the International Indigenous Leadership Award is Janene Yazzie, co-founder and CEO of Sixth World Solutions.
The award honors an Indigenous leader who serves as a defender of Mother Earth, inspires communities to action and one who honors and applies traditional beliefs to environmental problems.
Yazzie is co-founder and CEO of Sixth World Solutions, which works with Diné (Navajo) communities to promote sustainability, environmental justice, and self-governance.
She co-founded the first community-led watershed planning program to assert local control in the sustainable management, restoration, and protection of natural resources.
Yazzie said, “I am fortunate to come from a place where the footprints of my ancestors are tied to the landscape.
“It’s this inherent and ancestral knowledge that ties our modern struggles to inherent value of the universe,” she said.
On the Navajo Nation, 30% to 40% of households do not have running water. For many households, water is the largest expense.
The pandemic, severe drought and a legacy of contamination including lead, magnesium, arsenic and uranium create a perfect storm of need.
Because of her work to bring water to her people, Yazzie knew COVID-19 would devastate her community and that remote and vulnerable members would not be served.
As Yazzie said, “You can’t wash your hands with bad water.”
Yazzie also serves as the New Mexico lead for the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund, an all-volunteer grassroots Indigenous-led group operating on the Navajo and Hopi reservations.
Harriet and Alan E. Lewis, co-founders of Alnoba Lewis Family Foundation, said, “Janene is a powerful Native community activist who has built a career and life doing what she is most passionate about, helping her people on the frontline battle of systemic injustice. We recognize Janene’s exemplary work with this award.”
Yazzie also is a Sustainable Development Program coordinator for the International Indian Treaty Council and its representative as co-convenor of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group of the U.N. High-Level Political Forum on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Each of the Alnoba Environmental Leadership Awards includes a $10,000 donation in the recipient’s name to the nonprofit of her choice.
The awards will be presented on Oct. 13.