Diné Residents of Black Mesa Tell Why They Support Build Back Better Plan

Biden’s Build Back Better Plan has the potential to help Black Mesa (Dził Yíjiin) heal from decades of exploitation 

Tó Nizhóní Ání released a video in which Diné residents of Black Mesa make the case for why they support the Build Back Better plan being considered by Congress. (Diné is the original name of the people more commonly known as Navajo.)

Black Mesa, home to the only coal mine in Arizona that fed the largest power generating station to the southwest, is the region that bore the burden of exploitation and aquifer depletion in the name of coal mining. For nearly half a century, Arizona utilities provided their customers with cheap power and water from tribal lands in northeast Arizona.

As communities on Black Mesa have seen the comings and goings of coal mining they are now left with limited water. What was once a region abundant in natural seeps and springs that dotted the land is now limited to windmills and chapter house water wells.

With the region already struggling with water availability and drought, things will only get more difficult with this changing climate. Black Mesa residents are concerned for their water future and are determined to see water infrastructure investments brought to Black Mesa. The Build Back Better plan being debated in Congress will fund water infrastructure and also move the country away from fossil fuels such as coal, replacing them with cleaner energy sources. These renewable sources do not rely on water or create pollution that causes extreme heat, drought, and wildfire. 

Video Voices:

  1. Raina Dre Silver, Diné, is a resident of Black Mesa. She is familiar with the health and wellness inequalities in her community and continues to address these issues through community-based health and wellness initiatives such as the food to table concept, herbal medicine and trauma-informed yoga.
  2. Jessica Keetso, Diné, is from the Black Mesa region and is an organizer with the local non-profit Tó Nizhóní Ání which advocates for bringing power back to communities after the devastating impact of coal on Black Mesa.
  3. Percy Deal, Diné, is a rancher and community advocate from Black Mesa. He has been deeply involved in the local community and government issues for the last 45 years. Percy continues to use his expertise in educating and advocating for community transition on Black Mesa.
  4. Dan Herder, Diné, is a pastoralist and rancher that resides on Black Mesa. Dan has seen and experienced, firsthand, the impacts of industry and climate change to his family and livelihood, from relocation to water availability.
  5. Louise Benally, Diné, is a resident of Black Mesa and has advocated against industry on Black Mesa as it has directly impacted her family and relatives. She continues to be an advocate for change and social justice for coal-impacted communities like hers.

TNA About Us:

Tó Nizhóní Ání “Sacred Water Speaks” is a 501(c)3 organization located on the Black Mesa Plateau in Northeast Arizona on the Navajo Nation. Tó Nizhóní Ání was organized to protect the water sources of Black Mesa from Industry use and waste. Our goal is to bring power back to our indigenous communities impacted by coal. 

Tó Nizhóní Ání is under the leadership of Nicole Horseherder, a Diné from the Black Mesa region of the Navajo Nation. Nicole is one of the original founding members of Tó Nizhóní Ání and has been an active member since its establishment. Nicole began her work with Tó Nizhóní Ání as an outreach coordinator and interpreting hydrology and legal documents for Diné communities fighting coal-mine impacts. Today, Nicole is leading efforts towards transition away from fossil fuel development in the Navajo Nation.

Tó Nizhóní Ání works to maintain a balanced environment with the elements of life – water, land, air, and sunlight. Tó bee iiná. Water is life.

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Tó Nizhóní Ání “Sacred Springs Speaks”