Guest column: “Haaji Naat’aanii Corporation?” Our answer is — Nizhóníígo dóó Yéégo Nideiilnish Nihi K’éí Bá

In order for the Navajo Nation to move successfully forward toward creating jobs and increasing economic opportunities, it must take different types of approaches to development. Navajo Nation leaders must consider supporting various economic sectors — private and tribal business. As such, the Navajo Nation Council and the Office of the President and Vice President are to be applauded for showing good leadership and forward-thinking by creating the Naat’aanii Development Corporation (NDC) as a way to diversify economic sectors, and raise the revenue sources of the Navajo Nation while creating jobs for our people. As such, NDC has also been tasked with finding ways to work with Navajo/Native private business owners. NDC might be the best opportunity to replace the declining revenues and create jobs for the Navajo Nation.

A lot of research and thought have gone into developing NDC. In the end, the business model that was deemed best is a replicate of off-shoring used by American corporations operating in foreign countries, and some Native nations. The only difference is that NDC, while located within the US and situated on Native land, positions the NDC with the advantages and benefits of off-shoring.

The impetus for the development of NDC was the serious economic circumstances facing the Navajo Nation by the impending closure of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in December 2019. If the Navajo Nation does not salvage NGS, then there will be approximately $40 million negative impact to the Navajo Nation General Fund, and, in turn, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) will also suffer a significant loss of revenues. Should this occur, then the utility rates will no doubt increase for all NTUA customers, and, possibly, cause additional job loss. These potential losses of revenues and jobs, should they occur, will negatively impact our Navajo families for years to come. Our leaders are doing all they can to maintain the NGS jobs and coal royalties, and the formation of NDC is one way to stave off the oncoming tide of possible economic hardship for the Navajo Nation.

While those affiliated with the NDC appreciate the media interest in the Navajo Nation’s startup company — NDC — we do not condone the specious press coverage and labeling of our Navajo leadership as ineffectual. The recent Navajo Times article “Haaji Naat’aanii Corporation?” by Rima Krisst seemed only on intending to create doubt and disharmony among our Navajo relatives. This is not the Navajo way. NDC is a Navajo Nation-owned company that approaches opportunities with the sacred covenants of K’é, Nihi K’éí, and Hozho in mind. The Navajo way of working is based on harmony, solidarity and kinship. NDC’s intent is to work for and on behalf of the Navajo Nation showing the utmost respect to our relatives. While the Navajo Times often offer interesting and well-researched articles, we were disappointed that this type of journalism was endorsed by the Navajo Times leadership.

To set the record straight, the NDC board members for the past few months have been working hard and diligently to stand NDC up. It should be noted that, NDC is the only Navajo Nation-owned corporation mandated to pay annual dividends back to the Navajo Nation ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent of net margins over the first 10 years of operation. The initial four board members were appointed by the shareholder representatives in March 2018, with a full board of directors finally being seated in September 2018. The initial seed funding of $2.5 million is specifically for launching NDC. For those unfamiliar with startup companies, there are numerous moving parts that have to be contended with, while making investment decisions, like: establishing bank accounts, setting up a budget, building a team, writing of policies, developing a marketing plan, purchasing insurance, etc. The board members have spent hours and hours making these types of decisions and plans, while no board members were paid or reimbursed for travel and time since March 2018 through December 2018.

In terms of growing the company, NDC has continuing inquiries and meetings with over 20 companies who are interested in partnering with NDC. As a true startup, NDC has managed, in a very short period of time, with limited resources, to establish several subsidiary companies which are in the early stages of development. One of the subsidiaries has significant projected revenue potential and sizeable net margins enough to replace most, if not all of the projected losses from NGS coal royalties. We are hopeful by such business opportunities and have exercised careful due diligence to become successful. To ensure that NDC capitalizes on these business prospects, the board looked far and wide for the best CEO to assist NDC, and moved to select Mr. Robert Joe to lead the startup, and to negotiate terms with the companies interested in working with NDC. We believe Mr. Joe is the best person for the job because of his business qualifications. To cast aspersions on his business credibility, experience, skills, abilities and knowledge implies desirousness and politics. This is not the Navajo Way!

As NDC methodically works to secure appropriate business prospects, we have located companies that are publicly-traded, privately-owned, and in some cases global industry leaders. NDC board and CEO are also diligently working with Navajo- and Native-owned companies to find ways to partner and make the most of business possibilities that have presented themselves. Since there are strict media confidentiality agreements in place with these companies, the board is not at liberty to discuss the details and terms of the agreements. This is standard, good business practice, and not done for perceived nefarious reasons as portrayed in the recent Navajo Times article and subsequent letters.

To make sure the hoped-for successful economic results occur for the future of our relatives and the Navajo Nation, the following board members were selected: Dr. Patricia Nez Henderson, vice-chair (Navajo doctor and scientist), Mr. Bart Garber, JD, secretary/treasurer (Athabascan attorney and international business leader), Ms. Nadina Paisano, (Navajo certified public accountant), Mr. Johnson Dennison (Navajo Medicine Man and educator), Dr. M. W. Zaaza (leading energy and natural resource expert), and Mr. Jerry Pacheco (leading international trade and management expert).

NDC believes actions and performance speak louder than words, therefore, hereon we will issue press releases, when necessary, to report to the Navajo Nation and the people about the progress of NDC. NDC is here to create value for the Navajo Nation and our relatives through increasing revenues and creating jobs based on the sacred Navajo covenants of K’é, Nihi K’éí, and Hozho. So, the answer to the question posed “Haaji Naat’aanii Corporation? Our answer is — Nizhóníígo dóó Yéégo Nideiilnish Nihi K’éí Bá.

Dr. Manley A. Begay, Jr., Chairman

Naat’aanii Development Corporation, internationally renowned

professor of Indigenous Nation-Building and

development

Flagstaff, Arizona

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