Groundbreaking ceremony held for Dahsání Campground in Nageezi
On Tuesday morning, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Nageezi Chapter House to mark the location for the new Dahsání Campground.
Kialo Winters, who’s Ta’neeszahnii and born for Kinyaa’áanii; and Gilbert Tsinnajinnie, who’s Hashtł’ishnii born for
Ta’neeszahnii, co-owners of the campground, opened the ceremony as they introduced Nageezi Chapter President Ervin Chavez for the welcoming address.
The keynote speaker was Navajo Nation Vice President Richelle Montoya, visiting alongside former Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer. Current and former council delegates, including Miss Navajo 2018-2019 Autumn Montoya, Richelle’s daughter, were also present.
The resolution for the creation of the campground was certified in August 2019, with the aim of it being able to host RVs and a regulated tent campground. The location in Nazgeezi should be ideal for tourists traveling along U.S Highway 550 and those visiting nearby Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Winters said there were some paperwork difficulties when first applying to set up a campground, but with guidance from people in the departments, they could get their proposal through and begin planning for the project. There was a delay in 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but as people returned to work, the co-owners were ready to get started.
Winters gave a big thanks to senior Economic developer Specialist Edgar Tohtsonie from the Regional Business Development Offices, who helped with communications between the chapter house and the two camp owners.
Winters believe the campground will help stimulate the economic development in the Nageezi area as it uses to land the chapter set aside for economic development for businesses. He hopes the action will draw in other young native entrepreneurs and skilled workers chasing jobs elsewhere to return home and help build up businesses on the rez. He’d be willing to help and mentor any young entrepreneur looking to start a business and help their fellow Navajo in the process.
“Our leaders, our ancestors, had the foresight to make sure that these opportunities were present for the future,” Winters said. “And so that’s the driving momentum in our mindset, with this business here.”
The size of the camp hasn’t been determined yet because they are studying statistics and estimates of potential visitors. But they plan to have designated areas for RVs and tents, electric hookups, rental cabins, showers, restrooms, and a dump station for RV wastes.
Winters said construction would be set for spring, and they’ll be hiring local contractors.
Tsinnajinnie is just as hopeful that the campground is the first step toward economic growth. Still, he is also optimistic that both Navajos and tourists can learn more from one another.
He believes it would be beneficial as the campground will allow them to educate tourists on the Navajo beliefs and history, act as guides, and ensure visitors don’t travel where they’re not supposed to.
In turn, he hopes Navajo can learn from the visitors and hear more about the outside world and other national parks that the people could visit for themselves.
Tsinnajinnie is thankful to see the community come together that morning, with chapter house members and leaders agreeing that the campground is a step in the right direction for economic stability and educating visitors coming to the Navajo Nation.
“We are focusing on economic benefits, but we’re also focusing on enriching the community and their lives, not only in our community but across the board,” Tsinnajinnie said. “Because there are people who are curious and want to learn more about our lifestyle and culture and traditions. So with that, we want to focus on enriching our community through education, so our visitors will understand a little more clearly what it’s like to live on the reservation and the struggles we face and the challenges that come with it.”
Although it is uncertain how many visitors the camp could get, Chavez said there was a need for more camping spaces as the Chaco national park fills up quickly, and visitors need a place to stay. With about 80-90,000 tourists visiting or passing through the area, the community could get revenues if visitors stop and use Dahsání camp’s services.
Chavez hopes other chapter houses will seize opportunities and take advantage of them so that the economy in the Navajo Nation can be built and more jobs can be opened for the people.
“We’re very excited and thanking Mr. Winters and Mr. Tsinnajinnie for working with us to develop this campground,” Chavez said. “It’s been a venture over the past three years, but I think it was worth it. And we’ve come to this point where we broke ground, and we’re very excited that we are able to start economic development in our region.”
Terri Winters is also a co-owner, who’s Hashtł’ishnii and born for Táchii’nii.