Potential closure of Kayenta Mine a revenue crisis for Hopi

Hopi Tribe faces revenue crisis with potential closure of Kayenta Mine; Tribe counts on non-profits for help – Arizona Gives Day, April 3, supports Hopi nonprofits

The Kayenta Mine operates through lease agreements with the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe to supply coal to the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona. (Photo/Peabody Energy)

The Kayenta Mine operates through lease agreements with the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe to supply coal to the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona. (Photo/Peabody Energy)

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. — For 50 years, the Kayenta Mine on Black Mesa has supplied coal to fire the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), which powers Phoenix air conditioners, Las Vegas Strip neon and California Teslas.

With coal falling out of favor nationally, the power station is set to close in 2019 and along with it the mine. The mine and power station provide hundreds of well-paying jobs for members of the Hopi and Navajo nations and mining royalties account for nearly 75 percent of the Hopi Tribe’s budget.

In addition to the loss of jobs, the mine’s closure will impact essential services across the Hopi nation, and solutions to the tribe’s budget shortfall are either only in the planning stage or will take years of development.

Several existing nonprofit organizations that work with the Hopi are poised to step in and fill the numerous gaps that exist, and that stand to widen dangerously. However, these much-needed organizations require help not only to fulfill but significantly expand, their essential missions.

Arizona Gives Day is a way to give back to local communities

Arizona Gives Day was established in 2013 to expand the reach of nonprofit organizations and to give Arizonans an opportunity to help their neighbors in need. The online campaign allows donations of any amount to be designated to numerous organizations delivering essential programs across the state. Since 2013, Arizona Gives Day has raised $10.2 million for the state’s nonprofits.

In Hopi’s case, nonprofits are providing essential services, often where the tribal government cannot. The groups provide scholarships and college counseling, substance abuse counseling and treatment, elderly care and cultural heritage programs, job training and placement and home repair assistance. It’s an ongoing list of needs that stands to become much greater with the loss of mining revenues and good paying jobs with the area’s largest employer.

Monica Nuvamsa is executive director of the Hopi Foundation, which provides gap services to the community that aren’t offered by the tribal government, like the Hopi Substance Abuse Prevention Center.

When people lose their jobs, other social issues begin to increase, like alcohol and substance abuse.

“Our most pressing concern with what’s on the horizon is what impact the mine closing is going to have on us socially, and what’s the impact going to be on jobs across the reservation,” Nuvamsa said. “We need to employ more people to deal with the coming fallout, and we need resources to do this.”

Providing jobs, counseling, educational resources and scholarships are only part of the equation. Getting educated people to return to the reservation and their community requires infrastructure that currently doesn’t exist, according to LuAnn Leonard, who runs the Hopi Education Endowment Fund.

“We can and are creating college graduates, all the way up to PhD’s,” Leonard said. “And they want to come back here and work, but they need good housing, good schools, and good medical facilities, all things that they are used to in the city. And they need jobs. All these things are related.”

Though he’s been in office just over 100 days, the tribe’s vice chair sees what’s looming on the horizon.

“The nonprofits are going to be a very important part of what’s coming, and if it gets to the point that we do not have mining royalties, they’re going to be some of the key players in what’s going to happen to our economy and guaranteeing the lifestyle of the Hopi today and going forward,” said Vice Chairman Clark Tenakhongva.

Nonprofit organizations are well-versed in the policy development and strategic planning that stretches funds and maximizes resources. Most are lean by nature and focused on specific sets of goals where tribal governments are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of issues and needs.

Mark Hall is the director of the Red Feather Development Group, which empowers limited income Hopis and Navajos with home repair and weatherization workshops and services.

Hall feels strongly that nonprofits can fulfill the needs that the government isn’t able to meet.

”They bring additional resources to a community that don’t exist in that community already,” he said.

Former Tribal Chairman Ben Nuvamsa agrees.

“These NGO’s bring value to our community, and we need to get them involved in developing strategies because they’re good at strategic planning,” he said. “They bring huge value to us in their drive to be creative and make a difference. Making a difference is what they’re about. When you work in a tribal government your creativity is restricted by rules and laws and tribal politics. The NGO’s are free to be creative. And they’re us.”

Hall thinks that Arizona Gives Day will be an opportunity for Arizonans to give back to a people from whom so much has been taken, to assist with a multitude of needs that the Hopi community not only requires, but deserves from its neighbors.

“When I look at the situation from an outside perspective, I see a lot of giving of resources by the Hopi people to benefit the region, namely power for Phoenix, and now there is pressure to move to green energy, which is really why the Navajo Generating Station is closing — the expensive tariffs placed on dirty energy consumption — causing pressure on the Hopi people,” Hall said. “I hope society at large recognizes that they need to help pay the price. Arizona Gives Day is the perfect opportunity for people outside the community to infuse some help into this community by giving back.”

Arizona Gives Day will take place online April 3 at www.azgives.org.

Numerous nonprofits from various sectors are participating in the campaign. To donate directly to Hopi-based organizations, interested individuals should visit www.azgives.org and search for the organization they wish to support.

Hopi-focused nonprofits participating include:

Adventures 4 Hopi (Paaqavi, Inc.) — www.adventuresforhopi.org

Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture — www.hopitutskwapermaculture.org

Hopi Education Endowment Fund — www.hopieducationfund.org

The Hopi Foundation — www.hopifoundation.org

Moenkopi Senior Center — www.moenkopiseniorcenter.com

The Nakwatsvewat Institute — www.nakwatsvewat.org

Red Feather Development Group — www.redfeather.org

Morgan Craft is an Arizona freelance journalist focused on issues that affect indigenous peoples. You can contact him at Craftmediagrp@gmail.com.

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