Saturday, May 27, 2023

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Letter | Slowing the ‘exodus’

Here we go again. The Navajo Nation is once again facing a decision about what direction it should go with energy.

We know that Navajo Nation is no longer an energy leader, which McDonald and Zah built back in the day. Those days are gone. As we look at the last four years under the Nez Administration and the 24th Council we know they came about under a green administration.

Let us start with how many jobs and revenue did the green industry bring to the Navajo people? That answer is straight forward. Zero revenue and about 15 jobs. The 2020 census showed that 9,000 Navajos moved away from the Navajo Nation. The question is, where and why did the Navajo people leave? The answer is the Navajo people left for jobs and economic opportunity in the border towns and cities.

If this data is telling us Navajos the exodus trend, why then is the new tribal administration wanting to follow the same path? Is it because a small group can scream the loudest about no energy or extraction jobs? With over 250,000 Navajos living off the reservation today, how do we slow the exodus of our people down?

The challenge is for the new administration and Council to look forward and move in a direction that benefits the Navajo people. If that means extraction of minerals for good-paying jobs, or other private sector jobs, then that is the direction we should move.

The Biden Administration wants green jobs and wants all tribes to follow like good little Indians. The issue is Navajo Nation has been a fossil fuel tribe for decades and has provided for itself well from that industry. The tribe became a big voice because of its energy and carried a big stick as an energy giant. Now what if we are not an energy giant? Do we continue begging the federal government for more federal dollars and remain in poverty? The Navajo voters this last election clearly don’t support continued government dependency.

Today the Navajo Nation pays SRP $2 million dollars a year for 10 years for transmission rights of which Navajo has not moved any green power. The Nez Administration said investors and the tribe would build four solar farms and use those transmission lines. None of the solar farms have proven to be feasible to build to date. Will the Nygren Administration follow this path?

Many of these energy issues today must be dealt with by the Nygren/Montoya Administration and new Council. We must deal with it today if we are going to bring people back to Navajo Nation with good-paying jobs. Remember, this does not mean low-paying government jobs in Window Rock. Nor does it mean fast food, gas station and convenience store jobs.

And finally, we know that half of Buu’s appointees come from the green movement. Will those appointees continue to force the Buu administration to bow to Biden’s green movement, which in the last four years has brought no benefit to the Navajo people. I hope we as Navajos will think hard about our future and implement a plan to bring our people to Navajo Nation. For that to happen you need good-paying private sector jobs and housing to start.

Denise Begay
Hogback, N.M.


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