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GREEN ENERGY MAY PROVIDE AN ECONOMIC BOOST TO THE NAVAJO NATION

GREEN ENERGY MAY PROVIDE AN ECONOMIC BOOST TO THE NAVAJO NATIONIndian Country Today, News Report , Carol Berry, Posted: Feb 12, 2009WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The current thrust toward energy independence may

offer the Navajo Nation an opportunity to create green jobs, initiate an

economic renewal and revive traditional enterprises, according to tribal

advocates.“Indian people live off the land, so in a sense they have basically

practiced green jobs,” said Joshua Lavar Butler, communications director

for the Navajo Nation Council.A new Navajo Green Economy Coalition is preparing a resolution for the

council that, if approved, would allocate $6 to $10 million for a Navajo

Green Energy Commission and Navajo Green Economy Fund.“Individuals, chapters, agencies, anyone could apply for the money, with

the hope that, for every $15,000 allocated, one job will be created,” said

Nikke Alex, a coalition spokesperson.The plan is to create a seven-member commission under the Navajo Nation

Council similar to the Navajo Human Rights Commission to look over grant

applications and to select those to be funded, she said. The plan would

require council approval and buy-off by the tribal president.The Navajo Nation is large enough that “it could be self-sustaining,” said

Tony Skrelunas, Native American Program director for the Grand Canyon

Trust, who said his organization is part of the coalition because “it’s

very timely – green energy is a big deal.”The renewable energy advocates were interviewed by phone before the Navajo

Green Jobs Community Summit held in Window Rock Jan. 17 – 19 by the Black

Mesa Water Coalition and Campus Climate Challenge.Lawrence. T. Morgan, speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, “sees the Navajo

Nation ‘going green’ to set an example and to be a template for other

Native nations.”“It was his vision to initiate green jobs on the Navajo Nation,” Butler

said, noting that Morgan, who is seeking re-election, is active in the

council of Large Land-Based Tribes and, with Navajo President Joe Shirley

Jr., is an advocate for increased funding in the north BIA region. “His

hope is that we can go back to our roots.”The summit at Window Rock included panels and workshops reflecting the

views of groups that included the Black Mesa Water Coalition, the recently

formed Navajo Green Economy Coalition, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, One

Sky New Mexico and other individuals and environmental and grassroots

nonprofit organizations.The Navajo Green Economy Coalition, said the group’s aim is to “create

energy-efficient and low- or non-polluting jobs for the Navajo Nation,”

Alex said, including small or large community renewable energy projects,

textile or woolen mills, energy-efficient ventures that could involve

weatherizing, weavers’ cooperatives, green construction firms and

traditional agricultural renewal.The coalition was formed to help transition and diversify the Navajo

economy to one that is long-lasting, sustainable and healthy through a

green jobs initiative that includes “generally, low-polluting and recycling

interactions with the environment,” she said.Grant amounts would depend on the amount of money allocated and, while the

recession has affected the Nation as it has the U.S. economy as a whole,

the coalition is hoping the fund will be established “as soon as possible.”The Navajo Green Energy Coalition’s plan has the support of about one-third

of the nation’s 110 chapters to date and information was distributed last

fall at a number of tribal fairs, she said.Jobs on the reservation to enable tribal members to stay or return may be a

major benefit of the green jobs initiative.“We want to encourage students to come back home and make their own jobs,”

she said. “We want science and engineering students to come back, and we

want to show them how the education you’re getting now is going to help

this brand new economy.”Even if the program is not funded, a channel has been established for U.S.