Valley Leadership’s Explore Program Goes to Navajo Nation

June 7, 2022

Navajo Nation, one of the largest tribal governments of the North American Indian Nations, was our last destination. We visited Navajo Nation to obtain a better understanding and awareness of the diverse culture, the economic issues at play, the state of infrastructure and water resources, as well as the creation of accessible education opportunities. We met Navajo community leaders and learned about how they continue to work on maintaining their cultural heritage while planning and forging ahead into the future. 

Sid Dietz helped get us excited for our journey into Navajo Nation by joining us for a pre-session discussion the night before we left, sharing information ranging from work being done by Navajo Engineering & Construction Authority to increase access to running water (an estimated 30% of homes do not have running water) to the diverse representation in the Miss Navajo Nation Pageant that was started in 1952.

Our travels started at the Star School in Flagstaff, where Mark Sorensen shared why he chose to open a school that served Navajo children with an emphasis on the culture and the language over 20 years ago. We then met with Tyrone Thompson with Chi’shie farms and toured a farm where he and his team are working to create more access to healthy food options. We ended our day with a delicious dinner at Twin Arrows Casino in preparation for our journey to Monument Valley where we met Shandiin Herrera who runs the Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii Community Center. We wrapped up day two with a sunset jeep tour of Monument Valley complete with dinner and cultural presentations. 

Our final day was full of information starting with Deenise Becenti from Navajo Tribal Utility Authority who shared the work being done to bring power to homes through the Light Up Navajo program. We then met with Fern Benally who is a County Supervisor and on the Black Mesa Review Board, and learned about the Black Mesa Mine and the effect of the mine closure in 2019. We wrapped up our day with a discussion with Marsha Greyeyes from Change Labs in Tuba City, who shared their philosophy on entrepreneurship in Navajo Nation. 

For more photos, please visit our Facebook album.

Special thanks to all of our community partners who made the trip such an incredible experience.

Shandiin HerreraTsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii Community Center
Germaine SimonsonRocky Ridge Gas & Market
Deenise BecentiNavajo Tribal Utility Authority
Sid DietzNavajo Tribal Utility Authority
Fern BenallyBlack Mesa Review Board / County Supervisor
Ken JohnsonTwin Arrows Navajo Casino
Mark SorensenThe Star School
Tyrone ThompsonChi’shie Farms
Ginger Sykes TorresVL Board Member
Marsha GreyeyesChange Labs

Due to unexpected obstacles, we were unable to visit with Germaine Simonson from Rocky Ridge Market to learn about her experience as a small business owner creating food access in a remote part of Navajo Nation. Looking forward to connecting with her on a zoom session soon!

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