Our Work

Critical ContextWahleah

Four sacred mountains located in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado surround the traditional homeland of the Navajo people. Together these mountains form the home that is the Navajo people’s homelands and universe. Within these four mountains, there are several more sacred landmarks that are strongholds of Navajo language, culture, ceremonies and teachings. In the Navajo worldview, Black Mesa represents the woman and mother, head of the home outlined by the four sacred mountains. The waters of Black Mesa are her blood and the coal of Black Mesa is her liver.

Black Mesa is also home to two coalmines operated by Peabody Coal Company: the Black Mesa Mine and the Kayenta Mine. Coal from the Black Mesa Mine was mixed with water from the Navajo Aquifer – sole source of drinking water in the region – and slurried through a 273 mile long pipeline to the Mojave Generating Station (MGS) in Laughlin, Nevada. MGS provided cheap electricity for the major southwestern cities including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix for nearly 40 years before being shut down in 2006. The Kayenta Mine provides coal to the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) located in Page, Arizona. At 2,250 megawatts NGS is the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S. and the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide. NGS pumps water from northern Arizona to central and southern Arizona through the Central Arizona Project (CAP). NGS is also the only coal-fired power plant in the country that is majority owned by the federal government through the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

This infrastructure, which transported essential resources to the deserts of central and southern Arizona, essentially built the state. The coalmines on Black Mesa are part of a legacy started in the early 1920s to ensure the Navajo Nation’s economic dependence on fossil fuel development. The Navajo Nation’s first Tribal Council, created in the early 1920s, was actually a business council formed explicitly to sign deals with large energy corporations. The colonization of the west and construction of its booming desert metropolises took incredible feats of engineering and extraction and the Navajo Nation has been the sacrifice zone for its growth and consumption. Today, our Nation is an illustration of a broken economy dependent on fossil fuels. Despite promises that uranium, oil, gas, and coal leases would bring in millions of dollars in royalties and create thousands of jobs, and a public narrative that claims mutual benefit, a visit to our reservation reveals a completely different reality.

Navajos do not own the mines or plant, and receive a slim amount of their profit through royalties and jobs. The Navajos employed through them barely dip into the unemployment rate, which hovers around 50%. Executives elsewhere rake revenues in, while Navajo people are impoverished and unemployed at many times the national and regional rates. While utility lines run right over our heads, 18,000 Navajo households live without electricity. This accounts for 75% of all un-electrified homes in the United States. Furthermore, the fossil fuel economy has left us with polluted air and land, contaminated and depleted water, resulting in various health ailments and social problems in our communities. Climate change is another concern that looms on the horizon, promising drastic changes in ecosystems and weather patterns. Most importantly, in teaching us to ignore our traditional teachings to love, respect, and protect Mother Earth our current economic system further promotes our assimilation into consumer society. We are in fact economically dependent on our own cultural destruction.

What We Do

In addition to building a stable and focused organization through organizational development, and administrative and fundraising efforts, we currently have three Programs to meet our mission and goalsthe No Coal & Environmental Justice Program, the Restorative Economy Program, and the Movement Building & Leadership Development Program.

BMWC.15