BMWC Organizing Fellow Lyncia Begay Reflects on the Opening Training

Over Memorial Day weekend, BMWC hosted a training for their 2016 Organizing Fellows and other youth leaders. Training sessions covered a variety of topics and strategies intended to empower recruits with knowledge and tools to underscore the importance of social justice, ecosystems, and Indigenous practicum.

Each presentation, panel, and workshop synthesized by Colleen Cooley and Jihan Gearon, focused on Diné communities vitality in challenging the status quo. This resulted in well-crafted, relevant content, rooted in acknowledging the current political, and socio-economic fallout of colonization and its challenges for Diné people.

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Fellows are led in an activity by Janene Yazzie on Organizing Strategies.

Content included a presentation on a Just Energy Transition by Jihan Gearon which positions workers and frontline communities as pivotal in shifting to energy sources that are ecologically sound as well as sustainable; a presentation by Roberto Nutlouis on Food Sovereignty that localizes on empowerment inherent within the land and Diné philosophy; a workshop led by Janene Yazzie which posed the importance of Water in Dinétah through participants culminating responses to its centrality in their lives; a presentation by Julius Badoni that reviews the process of Direct Action; a info-session on the Inner-workings of Tribal Legislation by Percy Deal; A workshop on Creating Narrative led by Jihan Gearon; a workshop on the potential successes and perils when enacting Organizing Strategies by Janene Yazzie; a discussion on Structural Violence led by Jihan Gearon; and last but not least, the application of Diné Traditions within our work, presented by Steven Darden.

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Guest panelists share their experiences with fellows.

There was also an evening panel that included Renae Yellowhorse, Sarana Riggs, and Jason Nez from the Save the Confluence, Marie Gladue from Big Mountain, Kim Howe from fracking communities in eastern Navajo Nation, and Adella Begaye of Dine CARE. All discussed the merits and challenges that are involved in pursuing land justice. Which emphasized how experience creates repeated trial and errors that acclimatize one to a variety of political terrains. These veterans of land justice also shared useful advice, such as, “Make sure you are credible,” and “Leadership has to be based on a greater good”.

The knowledge offered within these various sessions was further enriched by the input of fellows; recruits expanded upon the ecological reality, and narrative that front-line communities face. For instance, fellows from Pinon stressed how critical it is to create gabions to prevent further run-off and erosion in areas devastated by climate change and extractive industries.

As a result, what was collectively achieved was a firm understanding of the necessary action-oriented movement required of fellows in response to resource colonization’s historic and continued impact on current and future generations, communities, and ecosystems.

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A group discussion highlighting how central water is to land and healing.

Fellows, now equipped with tools, knowledge, and insights will work on BMWC programs and projects throughout the summer. Additionally, they will work with each other over the course of the year to create a campaign that coalesces their interests for healthier and more sustainable communities.

Overall, the experience I would have to take from these trainings is that our people, esp. our youth are undertaking and even seeking guidance to resume ties to Dinétah– in spite of systemic trends to sever, deter, and atrophy land based relations. It’s a beautiful thing that seems to be growing across different regions in Dinétah to reflect a shared affinity and the diverse approaches that are being routed. A future that is socially, ecologically, and politically aligned in returning to our original selves as Nihooka Bila’ Ashdł’aa’ii Diyin Dine’é.