Empower by Go Daddy Main St. Accelerator

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We are thrilled to announce that Yahuaca Knowledge Distribution LLC was chosen for the Empower by GoDaddy Main St. Accelerator. After an extensive application process and a round of interviews, our company was selected to be part of the 2021 cohort! The kickoff was back in December, and every week since January 6th, we’ve been attending EMPOWER sessions with the BBB team. It’s been an amazing experience & such a blessing to be in the company of positive, energetic people equipped with tools & training that will contribute to our company’s positive trajectory.

Our goal this year is to stabilize & grow our business. We started this journey with a big goal to transform the Navajo Nation’s political & economic landscape. Our journey over the past 3 years has taken us all over the United States & to South America. We have been able to contributed to the advancement of Indian Country in little ways by supporting Native-operated non-profit organizations, promoting two major publications, producing two music albums, launching a YouTube channel, starting a reservation-based solar tech operation, and engaging in philanthropy.

These activities have moved us closer to our goal. Our audacity to survive an Indigenous holocaust remains our biggest motivator to shift the landscape and change our world for the better. In small ways, we proved that art speaks volumes, unity is unbridled, and the spirit of indigenous people is strong! In large ways, we put power behind vehicles that are propelling indigenous talent, innovation and ingenuity forward.

They say ‘colonization is experiencing change on other people’s terms’. Our terms involve thriving. In conversations all across Indian Country, we had been hearing the same message: we need to move beyond surviving and begin thriving! As we continue on, we just want to express our immense gratitude for our friends, family & colleagues for their support. Though it’s been a tough time living through a pandemic, we are still striving. And, we are excited to unveil our latest projects later this year. Ahxe’hee!

COVID-19 Chit-Chat w/ Team YKD

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Screenshot_2020-04-06 (1) COVID-19 Chit Chat w Team YKD - YouTube(1)

Amid Novel Coronavirus concerns, restrictions, lock-downs and quarantine – we’re now facing a time of uncertainty. As the Navajo Nation braces itself for widespread change, we’re looking for ways to remain true to our mission, to be helpful, to spread hope (not fear), and to maintain our commitments to our community.  When we formed YKD, we wanted to do something that would leave a mark. Meaning, we wanted to put out information that was useful, form connections with people that would last a lifetime, collaborate in ways that brought forth solutions, and lead not only with our minds but with our hearts too.

When the first COVID-19 cases were announced, we began having conversations about what we were going to do as a business, and as a family. How could we contribute to the transitions we could see coming? What could we do to protect our relatives who were elderly, or had health conditions that would put them at a greater risk? At work, we began assisting our elders who were not familiar with online teaching and telework technology. We canceled all of our planned travel, gathered our resources, and began reaching out to others to see how we could assist. We did a solar install at the home of a hatałii who was conducting healing ceremonies from his hogan. We gathered grocery lists and made supply runs for people in self-isolation. And, we assisted multiple elders with Zoom tutorials to make it possible for them to work from home. Though our actions seem small, they sometimes have a huge impact later on. Which is something we’d like everyone to keep in mind. Every action has a ripple effect. So, let’s begin calculating how we can help one another and shift our attitudes about what it means to be a community. We don’t just live side-by-side in a given area – we are connected & we need to work together to get through this.

We’re mentally preparing ourselves for the new ‘normal’. Today, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the world has changed for the better. Pollution has declined. People are working from home. Kids and parents are working together toward their education. Prayer is back in the home. We are prioritizing our elders personally, and as a society. If this is the new normal, we don’t want it to change. Maybe we’ve all just woken up from the American Nightmare. This meat grinder some call democracy is eating us alive. And, for a lifetime, we have been told that this system is inevitable. At times, late at night as one is falling asleep, some may believe that this is true – they feel it. Still, the recent global events have proven that we can change our world for the better.

Shifting attitudes about economics, politics, health care and education are on the horizon. Still, some things will remain constant such as our faith in Diné spirituality and our strong history rooted in resilience. Yes, for some, the current state of our lives is in turmoil. Yes, we are working to navigate a global pandemic. And, yes, everything seems uncertain. But, we have hope that this chapter in our lives will bring about big changes in how we operate as a human race – because we are all being affected by this virus. This virus is a monster that does not discriminate. It doesn’t care about your nationality, race, religion, or economic standing. It is attaching itself to human beings, and so we must collectively think beyond our superficial differences, and think about what we must do as a species to protect ourselves and continue our survival on this planet. How must we change our behaviors so that we can once again live in harmony with nature? What do we have to do to prevent an outbreak like this from happening again?

 

 

We recently filmed a VLOG for our YouTube channel. It’s a discussion, really, about what’s going on in the world right now – and how we are reacting to it. Because we won’t be making any appearances at conferences this season, nor convening with friends & colleagues at events out of respect for ‘social-distancing’ protocols, we wanted to start a VLOG series to connect online with people who follow our work. So, please, let us know what you think. Comment on YouTube & subscribe to our channel if you find us even mildly entertaining.

Additionally, here are some answer to questions we’ve received about our future operations:

  • Yes, we are planning to shift how we deliver services
  • Yes, we have put all operations on-hold for the next few months
  • No, we will not be conducting any new solar installs
  • Yes, we have solar panels & replacement batteries in stock
  • No, we do not have any power packs or lights
  • Yes, we will continue making YouTube videos (for fun & to experiment with content creation & editing processes)

We also plan to launch our Unapologetically Indigenous podcast this summer. Details forthcoming. With that, take care of yourselves & each other. And, thank you for supporting Yahuaca Knowledge Distribution!

 

Stop imagining the apocalypse & start imagining the revolution

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Due to the COVID-19 precautions enacted this week, Yahuaca Knowledge Distribution, LLC may need to re-structure it’s business model to accommodate the shifting economic landscape. However, our mission will remain the same & we will continue to support & empower our indigenous people. The menu of services we provide will pivot to meet the current needs of our communities, and we will cease all travel for the next few months.  However, we see this as an opportunity to get creative & try out some new ideas that we’ve been toying with. So, stay tuned for those announcements in the coming weeks.

On a personal, real level… something that we’ve been wanting to put out there is a message of hope in this time of turmoil. The reality is that our communities are suffering from an attack that we cannot see, smell or hear coming. And, fear has gripped our hearts. Stress has been elevated to a new, heightened plane & we take that seriously.  As individuals that love our people – it’s painful to see panic. So, what we’d like to say to everyone during this time, is “Focus on the good, the beautiful & the times we learned something new & fascinating about ourselves. Think of healing, health & wellness. If we focus on the positive, we can shift our internal narrative.” These times are stressful, and we understand that morale rises and falls day-to-day – but we’d like to encourage you to be brave and choose to see the good, the blessings & the opportunity to reset the agenda and create the kind of impact that will be long-lasting. We cannot be dictated by fear. We must use this time to create strategies & solutions for our social, spiritual, political & economic problems. We must rise up now & fight for our livelihood. Now is the time to unite, to be human in the best way possible & to learn to be still enough that we can hear our ancestors speaking to us. Now is the time to step into our strength, to recapture that old wisdom, to put our indigenous knowledge to work, and to exhibit our resilient spirit. Sing your songs! Dance to the rhythm of the Earth’s heartbeat! Realign yourself with the divine! Wake your mind up. Speak words of hope. And, use indigenous languages to re-connect with the Holy People (even if you can only utter a few words… use them.. they are listening). Sometimes sickness isn’t just biological – it’s spiritual.  So, keep that in mind. This is not the end of the world. We are going to get through this! And, if we do it right – there will be a revolution. Dream it. Speak it. Use your thoughts & words to speak it into being. That’s the power you hold inside you.

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Michael’s Reactions to the MMDR Forum

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In the weeks leading up to the MMDR Forum, I had a lot of time to think about what we meant to accomplish. I imagined myself in a ceremonial setting . . . sitting in a Hogan, as a patient… the Hataałii looking over at me and asking gruffly, “What do you want”? It sounds harsh, but I don’t think it’s truly harsh. It is direct. All Hataałiis are direct. They don’t have time, or energy, to ‘beat around the bush’. They are in a place to communicate your concerns to Diyin Dine’é, so this is a serious question. What do I want?

I visualized us all in a Hogan… I am sitting as the patient… my wife is next to me, and all our kids next to her. All around are familiar faces sitting in reverence, with patience. The smoke is all around from burning cedar and hot coals in the center of the Hogan. This setting is exactly what we need to build the MMDR Data Institute. We need a home for our data set. Each of the logs must be blessed with tadidiin, and everyone who enters must be protected.

Going forward, the person sitting as the patient next to the Hataałii is not me. We do not know who that person is because they are missing or they have been murdered. They have a question, “Who did this to me?” We owe each one of them an answer.

Some of the relatives trying to solve the issue are reluctant to enter the Hogan. They may not feel comfortable in the sacred home for our heavy work. That’s okay. We have a duty, as relatives, to welcome them inside, but we cannot force them to sit down with us. We can only offer the nourishment of the sacred foods, the prayers, the songs, and the herbs we use to cleanse and heal. Our souls are starving… our minds are at peace… our pain on full display.

This imagery, this message, is what I wanted to share with those in attendance at the MMDR Forum. It is not an original idea. It is something that has always been. For me, I think, out loud, about how it must have been to discover a light off in the distance of some sort. I think of the Diné story about the discovery of the baby that would become Changing Woman. What must it have been like to bring this to the attention of a spouse… To go out into the darkness and discover that a newborn baby is on the Earth all alone and needs our help. How did it feel when First Man and First Woman discovered the baby that would grow up to save the world? Did Diyin Dine’é put that baby there long ago? Did First Man and First Woman not notice the baby at first? Did they notice immediately? What if every MMDR individual is placed on the earth for us to discover, care for, raise up – but we just didn’t care enough to see it through? We just didn’t accept the responsibility? And, so, they keep dying? K’adí – T’áá Nihí Hasht’e Da Diinííł! NO MORE! WE WILL TAKE CARE OF THIS PROBLEM OURSELVES!

Thinking this through, I thought to myself, ‘Maybe we need a travelling song to guide us!’ I said this to the Hataałii in attendance at the MMDR Forum, Rita Gilmore. She and I were having this conversation when Council Delegate Amber Crotty came over to us. Amber jokingly remarked, “What do you think you are talking about? Rita knows what she’s doing. She doesn’t need you to MANsplain it to her. She taught you everything you know!” We all laughed, and when Rita took the stage, she sang a Mountain Soil Bundle song (Dził Biyiin) to bless the forum and all the attendees. From what I was taught about the Dził Biyiin, it is a song that constructs a cosmic Hogan stretching across all of Diné Bikéyah. It protects us. It heals us. It teaches us how to be that 102 year old elder.

To me, Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives (MMDR) are like that baby we just found on the ground. The baby has no parents. We must step up and be the parents. We are MMDR’s father. We are MMDR’s mother. This child is growing very rapidly, more swiftly than any human baby has ever grown. Within minutes, we see that this baby is a toddler, then a tween. This baby is now ready for their coming of age ceremony! We aren’t ready for this, but MMDR needs us to be ready RIGHT NOW! The Hogan must be ready NOW. The medicine person must be hired NOW! The nourishment must be prepared NOW! The singers must be ready NOW!

The Sanii are here. They are ready to mold MMDR into a woman, to guide MMDR into manhood. Our people require tools necessary to live, to ‘be an elder in training’, to be a wife, a mom, and a grandmother, a husband, a father, a grandfather. Before old age, we are all elders in training. And, to live to elder status is a privilege that so many Diné relatives don’t get to experience. It is time taken from us. We need songs and prayers and protection. We need community and k’é. This MMDR issue can no longer be ignored. We cannot step over these bodies and disregard them. They needs us NOW! So, I refuse to turn away. I refuse to ignore those cries in the night. NO MORE! WE WILL TAKE CARE OF THIS OURSELVES! T’áá Nihí Hasht’e Da Diinííł!

We will gather the robes and blankets. We will sing the songs. We will cloak our relatives, and we will teach them how to command others to treat them properly – with respect and dignity. We will build a world in which any deviation from this teaching is not tolerated. We will go outside the Hogan and bring in whatever is needed to ensure that our daughters and sons are well cared for. We will stay within the Hogan and ensure our relatives are fed songs, prayers, food, and teachings. And, over time they will become a shield for their spouse, their children, their clan, and their People. And, we have to do all this because without these individuals, there may not be another world to give to our grandchildren.

Imagine… what if First Man and First Woman did nothing when they discovered that baby girl? What if they let that girl die? We would not be here today. Monsters would roam the Earth and consume whatever was left until they ran out of sustenance and there would be no more life. And, still, late at night, my wife and I wonder, “What more can we do?” We know we tread a very treacherous path. We understand that these monsters will try to take our lives. They will try and turn us against one another. But Diyin Dine’é gave me Adrian, and I am hers. I will protect her and she will heal me. She will protect me and I will heal her. This arrangement, as modeled by Mother Earth and Father Sky, was given to us by Diyin Dine’é. For that we say ‘Ahxe’hee’. With that we will persevere! And, we will continue to do our part to fight for justice for our Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives. T’áá Nihí Hasht’e Da Diinííł!

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This write up was written by YKD’s Director of Research & Development, Michael Lerma.

 

Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives Initiative

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59373819_10214045640350639_2621095623079755776_n#TeamYKD has always, and will always, support the cause to protect indigenous people from exploitation, misrepresentation, under representation, and extinction. The current state of affairs has placed us at the center of an epidemic that has resulted in countless individuals being kidnapped and/or murdered. Too many of our relatives have been lost and we’re making a stand – along with many other community partners, advocates, and leaders – to say NO MORE! THIS HAS TO STOP! WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER TO PUT AN END TO THIS PROBLEM!

In May 2019, we joined Council Delegate Amber Kanasbah-Crotty, former Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim, and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez to discuss what actions can be taken to shift the trajectory, slow down the rate at which people are going missing or losing their lives, target interventions, and take precautionary measures to prevent more people from becoming victims to violent crime.  It was during that meeting that we decided, as a group, to host public forums all across the Navajo Nation – to bring awareness to the issue, but also to empower the people who have been directly effected. The Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives initiatives was formalized around that same time with community partners, and we organized and united around this issue to seek out sustainable, effective, long-term solutions that will put an end to problem that is tearing apart our homes and homeland.

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Diné College was chosen to host the first #MMDR Forum, a 2-day community forum open to the public at the Shiprock South Campus in the John Pinto Library. Registration is FREE & can be submitted via Eventbrite at: http://bit.ly/2KqYvK4

The forum will introduce the community organizers & contributors that are working together to develop a data institute to address our Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives (MMDR). The intent of the forum is to actively engage attendees in the process of creating a framework for the institute, as well as, provide a space for the families of missing and murdered relatives who are still searching for their loved ones, or are grieving the loss of their loved ones. The goal is JUSTICE and HEALING. And, #TeamYKD is proud to be a part of this collaboration as organizers and members of the MMDR Executive Team.

Also, in an interesting pivot related to #MMDR, Adrian and Kelsey Marie Lee of Navajo Tea Time recently weighed in on #MMIW #MMIWG #MMDR issues our people are facing on their YouTube channel. True to the name of the channel, they voice some unpopular opinions, and share some of their own stories. So, if you have 30 minutes to spare, give it a view.

Change Makers: Native entrepreneurs on the Navajo Nation

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This week, Arizona Public Media published a video segment on Change Makers, native entrepreneurs on the Navajo Nation; and #TeamYKD’s contributions to Change Labs, the #IamTheNavajoEconomy campaign, and the Native American Business Incubator Network’s cohort of entrepreneurs were included. The majority of the photos shown in the segment were taken by Adrian herself, which is really cool to see! But, most importantly, this video shows that amazing things are happening on the Navajo Nation today. During this critical time, Navajo and Hopi are transitioning away from their long dependance on mineral extraction to fuel their local economies. And while some are devastated by the Navajo Nation leadership’s decision to shut down Navajo Generating Station to seek out new ventures, not everyone is interpreting this shift as detrimental to our health and wealth. In fact, there is a lot of support from Navajo people who understand the cultural and socio-economic implications of NGS and other mining operations.

For example, Emery Denny, the son of Navajo hataali, Avery Denny, wrote an amazing response this week, saying “I for one am encouraged. We will never know the full toll we paid for that mine. The pain and suffering, the depression, the anxiety, alcoholism, suicide that resulted from relocation at gun point. How many Iives were lost due to health problems related to the mine? How many ceremonies were lost because families were relocated? That mine was a monster killing our people while making non-Navajos rich. In the spirit of our ancestors, those delegates used their votes like lightning arrows and slayed that monster that was killing our people. We have relived our traditional stories of being monster slayers. Not many tribes have had the same success we have had in fighting dirty energy. We should be encouraged that our faith saw us through, that our prayers were answered, though it took time. This is where sovereignty starts, by exerting our own ideals, our own people, our own principles, our own voice over big money and evil powers we can not see. We are still monster slayers, we are still here and we will over come the next monsters the U.S. Federal and State government throw our way. We are Diné, Diné niidlí.”

Native entrepreneurs are smart, talented, and have a lot of offer their communities. The work Jessica Stago and Heather Fleming are doing to encourage and support small business development is exactly what is needed during this time of great change. Our people now have this opportunity to embrace autonomy & sovereignty. Rather than living in fear, rather than raising our voices to tear each other apart, we can – and should – empower ourselves to move forward with new solutions & launch projects that serve our best interests – not outside interests.

In all the time uranium & coal mining operations were running, unemployment rates were high, and over 16,000 homes remained un-electrified & without running water. People were living in poverty conditions, and NGS was not addressing the problem. Supporters of NGS like to frame the company as a major source of income for the majority of Navajo people, but that just isn’t the truth. The majority of the money (and power) brought in by NGS was going elsewhere, not to Navajo communities or to Navajo infrastructure. While working in the solar industry, Adrian and her colleagues did dozens of solar installs in homes located directly under large power lines that run electricity to Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, etc… Those people living off-grid were not benefiting from NGS operations. Further, a large majority of those families were displaced and relocated because of mining operations, and they suffer from health problems directly related to resource extraction. To them, NGS was not a solution, but rather a source of their problems.

We can tell you from all the years we’ve spent working with NABIN (now Change Labs) that the best way to grow our local economies is to diversify – and support entrepreneurship & small business development. By supporting ventures that benefit our communities, we strengthen ourselves, our neighbors, our families & our nation. It’s a big conversation that needs to continue. All in all, we remain optimistic. #TeamYKD is hopeful & proud of our current leadership for having the courage to make this tough decision. Indigenous people have so much to offer the world. Our traditions and cultures are so rich, and so full of applicable knowledge that we can use to grow our health & our wealth. Jessica Stago stated it so well in the video, saying “Our culture doesn’t limit us, it actually is what we need to survive and to do more than survive, to be successful!”

Thank you, Vanessa Barchfield, Andrew Brown, Martin Rubio, Mitchell Riley, and Arizona Illustrated for your great work on this piece. Ahxe’hee!

Towards Rebuilding the Navajo Economy

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I am so inspired by the new direction the Navajo Nation is taking. Our new administration under President Nez has reached out to, and brought in, individuals who are smart, motivated, and have a deep love of our people & our homeland. And, when you have a love for your people, it shows in the work you do & in the initiatives you launch. Today, #TeamYKD met w/ the newly appointed Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development, JT Willie, and with Byron Shorty, the newly appointed Public Information Officer for the NNDED to discuss a collaboration of our various networks that will benefit entrepreneurship & small business development on the NN. We are excited to continue building our professional relationship w/ them over the next 4 years!

Something we talked about today was how during the Scorched Earth campaign, our enemies took away our ability to feed ourselves when they intentionally burned  fields of crops, orchards, and murdered our livestock. Mike pointed out ‘Through White Man’s Eyes’ by J. Lee Correll, a 6 volume set of books that documents the daily destruction of the Navajo political economy. He stated that when a people can’t feed themselves, they can’t defend themselves. And, when they can’t defend themselves, they surrender and sign treaties that are not meant to serve the best interest of the people. This is the historical context we need to frame our conversations about the NN economy with.

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Without this historical context, people place blame on themselves, on their community, on their leadership, on their Nation, on and on… and suddenly it makes more sense to leave the Rez and try to build a life elsewhere. When frustrated and pessimistic, it’s difficult to see the opportunities in front of us. That is why this conversation is important and necessary.  It allows us to lift that weight we’ve been carrying around, put it down, and move forward. With the ability to lighten the load, we can FOCUS, STRATEGIZE, and GROW. Suddenly we have the energy to collaborate and give more of ourselves to the initiative we care about. That’s how Native innovators, entrepreneurs and change-makers are created.

Breaking Dependency: Economic Innovation and the Future of the Navajo Economy

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#TeamYKD ventured to Cartagena de Indias in Colombia to present at the 2019 Business History Conference this month. It was an AMAZING experience! The conference was held in El Laguito at the Hilton, and there we met some of the great up-and-coming minds from around the world. Our contribution was to the Business and Indigenous History panel. I (Adrian) presented our paper, titled ‘Breaking Dependency: Economic Innovation and the Future of the Navajo Economy’; and Michael sat as Chair and Discussant for the panel. 

We were recently asked to submit the paper to an academic journal. So, because it is in the review process, it is not readily available, but here is the ABSTRACT, for those who are interested: How can merging culture and innovation grow an economy currently dependent on resource extraction? In many ways the contemporary Navajo economy is linked to and bolstered by resource extraction. Oil, coal, uranium and underground aquifers are valuable natural resources sought after by outside businesses. The majority of the profit made by these businesses leave the Navajo Nation. Big cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas reap the benefits, while more than 16,000 homes on the Navajo Nation don’t have access to electricity or running water. The cost the Navajo people pay to support unsustainable cities is unreasonably high. Health problems directly linked to uranium contamination is just one example of how the Navajo people pay with their lives and their future. This paper will document emerging innovators utilizing cultural knowledge to provide solutions for economic disparities, to mitigate environmental destruction, and to recapture their identities as autonomous indigenous peoples in the face of institutional barriers. For example, entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations that support small business development have begun to integrate the Navajo pedagogical paradigm of Nitsáhákees (thinking), Nahat’á (planning), Iiná (living), Sihasin (Assuring) into contemporary business modeling. The paradigm addresses the importance of identity, culture, language and homeland. It does not subscribe to the narrative that one has to leave home & abandon their identity to be successful. It also allows for entrepreneurs and business owners to maintain the integrity of Navajo culture and traditional values while contributing to the growth of the tribal economy. Several successful businesses have already adopted these strategies. Together, their vision is to combat ‘Navajo brain drain’, where the best and brightest are leaving home to build lives in support of a non-Navajo economy. Traditional Navajo philosophy supports building revenue streams that are not detrimental to land, water, livelihood and communities. Investment in renewable energies such as wind, water, solar and geothermal power, or in agribusiness tied to the Four Original Foods are viable options worth exploring.

Our presentation was not so much about YKD’s work, but about the work of our colleagues who are making BIG CHANGES in Indian Country. For example, we tied in the work of Change Labs, Rezilience, and the Just Transition efforts via Black Mesa Coalition and others, to exhibit what Native innovation looks like in the States. To us, we see it as a merging of culture, history, politics and art. So, that’s how we framed it; as a revival of indigenous creativity, ingenuity and collaboration! View the Prezi we created for our presentation. The videos are pretty dope & they capture what each effort is working to accomplish beautifully.

Above, we are pictured with Elizabeth Rule, who presented her paper titled, ‘The Chickasaw Press: A Case A Study in Indigenous Enterprise and Innovation’; and Clinton Hough, who presented his paper titled, ‘A Propensity to Truck, Barter, and Exchange: The Indian Trade in Colonial Florida’. For 3 days, we had the great opportunity to network and share our work as Yahuaca Knowledge Distribution, and as representatives for Dine College. We were surprised to meet a student from the University of New Mexico who was familiar with many of our colleagues, as well as, some of the initiatives we have contributed to over the past 3 years. It was muy emocionante that so many Native voices are being heard!  #BHC2019.

Cesare Pavese said, “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all the familiar comforts of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours, except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal, or what we imagine of it.” Our experience in Colombia was just that. We didn’t get a lot of sleep, we were unfamiliar with everything around us, but we were happy, together, and surrounded vibrant people, a loud, constant stream of music that acted as a soundtrack for our everyday adventures, and some of the best tasting food & drinks (sin licor) I’ve had in my life. The fruit was abundant, the seafood was fresh, and the flavors were unique and mouthwatering.

We came to this place with $6.00 in our wallets and a minimal understanding of the Spanish language. Some people would call us crazy for signing up for international travel under those circumstances, but we did so because we believe in the work we are doing, and we were on a mission to spread to the world (or at least to South America) stories of resilience and innovation coming out of Native America. More than that, we wanted to expand our horizons. What we found to be true was that everything we were told to fear, or to be wary of, was opposite of what we encountered. The people we met, every single person, was kind and helpful. The language barrier was more of a tiny hurdle. And, the atmosphere was one that left a strong impression on us. It was a landscape dominated by people of color. We were surrounded by brown people! And, it felt really good to fit into the majority, and not be bombarded by white supremacy (like in the United States).  I mean imagine a world without Trump supporters and MAGA hats… yeah… it was just that! And. it was beautiful.  As people who are conscious of, and somewhat engaged in, American politics, we really enjoyed the break from America’s ‘Age of Alternative Facts’. We completely unplugged from mainstream media, and let each of our days unfold organically. It was an experience that shifted our perspective in unexpected ways, and we definitely want to return again someday 🖤

#TeamYKD goes to Standing Rock

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Two years ago, we decided to join the Water Protectors at Oceti Sakowin to fight against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. For months, we had seen the battle unfold over social media, and our hearts were being pulled to North Dakota as we watched our relatives grow the #NoDAPL movement from one tribe, to ten tribes, to 100 tribes, and then to a global movement that included indigenous nations from every continent speaking out in solidarity.

I remember the day the boats began to arrive on the river, and the day the Hopi dancers walked through the Oceti Sakowin main gate. It was powerful! Indigenous people from South America, Japan, Mongolia, and Europe were marching and sending supplies to the camp.  Activists were breaking down barriers and forming alliances. And, flags from every Native American nation were being flown at the camp. It was the first time I’d seen, in my lifetime, so many tribes united for one cause. All the warriors were rising up!

Our decision to join the fight happened in the Fall, and it was the best decision we ever made together (up until that point). It was scary! But, it was something we felt like we needed to do. How could we sit back and let everyone else fight this fight? We wanted to be there.

We arrived on a cold evening. The sun was setting below the horizon. With us, we brought medicine from within the 4 sacred mountains of the Navajo Nation. We brought cedar for prayer, corn pollen for offerings, bitter root for nightmares (and supernatural attacks), eye medicine for tear gas attacks, and mountain smoke for psychological healing. We brought supplies, food, & safety gear (goggles, ear plugs, gloves, ventilator masks) – all of which, were meant for our relatives who had been at the camp for months. It was for those who needed it. We knew the attacks that were reported were real, and we wanted to help combat those attacks the best way we knew how.

Our experience at the camp was life-changing on so many levels. The people we met there were so bad@$$, fearless, determined, and kind. The drums we woke up to every morning are something I will never forget. The memory of the cold, crisp air that shocked the whole body is something that sticks out in my memory, even on the hottest days. The smell of campfires, the taste of elk, the sight of those large construction light towers on the hills, the sound of drones… it all still resonates.

The stories we heard were stories of conflict with security, conflict with pro-DAPL community members, conflict with NGOs, conflict between governments – but there were also stories of healing and restoration. We heard from people who had been healed from depression, anxiety and addiction. We heard travel stories. We heard camp stories that included community-based justice, indigenous histories, camp politics, spiritual awakening, and tribal leadership.

On Action Days, we saw true movement, true unity, and true conviction. We experienced the kind of care and community that has extended to how we operate now, years later, in our own community. We feed, clothe, educate, protect and support our relatives and neighbors. Since returning, we are careful to recognize (and not take advantage of) our own personal privacy, protections, and privileges. And, mostly, we are more cognizant of the impact we have on the world around us.

In this video, we are telling a portion of our story to KNAU reporter, Aaron Granillo. Originally, Michael was invited to speak about his experience as an NAU professor who went to the front lines, something the majority of academics (at the time) couldn’t do because of job security, university regulations for non-tenured faculty, and political hierarchies that prevent that sort of activity and involvement. But, because it was a shared experience, Michael encouraged me to join him at the radio station. In the final version of the interview that was published on the KNAU website and broadcasted over NPR, my voice is completely cut out. In this version, which is the *RAW* version, everything is included. It is not edited, so you can hear all the little extra conversation cues, as well as, a song at the end that Michael performed.

As stated in the interview, this is dedicated to the WATER PROTECTORS. Our work, our story, and our actions are dedicated to everyone who made the journey to Standing Rock, to everyone who donated resources, to anyone who showed support online, to anyone who was jailed for protesting, to anyone who voted for #NoDAPL legislation, etc… Thank you!!

The photos in the video were taken by YKD and many, many others. We utilized photos found online to give viewers a visual interpretation of what happened at Standing Rock before we arrived, during our time there, and after we left. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and we agree. What occurred there should never be forgotten.  We need to tell these stories for the rest of our lives. We need to show the world the injustices we experienced. And, we need to speak our truth!

Original music by: One Note Johnny  – Click the link to hear the album!

 

We installed 52 solar light kits in 52 homes on the Navajo Nation!

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There are about 16,000 homes on the Navajo Nation that lack electricity. Many of these homes use kerosene lanterns, gas lanterns, candles and gas generators for lighting, all of which are fire hazards and contribute to indoor air pollution. YKD’s mission is to light up homes across the Navajo Nation, using solar technology!

This year we installed over FIFTY solar light kits in the Western and Central Agencies of the Navajo Nation. In May, we partnered with solar tech company, Goal Zero, and local tour guide, Leroy Teesyatoh, in Monument Valley, UT to install solar light kits in off-grid homes.

In October, we partnered again with Goal Zero, as well as, the Chinle Unified School District. We set out to install 40 solar kits in 40 homes, but we ended up installing 42 systems in 2 days in Chinle, Manyfarms, Del Muerto, Tsaile, Wheatfields & Lukachukai!

Being new to the Central Agency, the only connection we’ve had w/ the Chinle community was w/ their cross-county team, the Wildcats. They’ve been the main competitors for our hometown team, the Tuba City Warriors, for as long as we can remember. The Wildcats were always known for their endurance & discipline. They trained on hills like we did, and they ran together in packs. We knew who their top runners were & they knew ours. This past week, while organizing & executing our Fall solar install trip, we realized that the people of this region are just as tough, ingenious & disciplined as their cross-country runners. We met business owners & bull fighters! We talked with grandmas & grandpas who built their homes w/ their own hands. We experienced negative stereotypes melt away before our eyes as the true nature of the Diné showed itself to the visitors of this place. We had conversations w/ storytellers & cultural arts masters. We joked around & laughed together over some of the situations we encountered. And, in the end we realized that we’re not so different from one another. We climb different mountains & scale different cliffs, but we go in courageous & come out alive. So, thank you for welcoming us into your homes. And, thank you for choosing renewable energy! Ahxe’hee!

Read the Goal Zero Solar Life Blog for more details, and watch the trip video HERE!