Peshlakai family to host Gathering for Mother Earth

CAMERON, Ariz. - "We need to wake people up," Mae Peshlakai said. "It's time to start recognizing the need for renewable energy. We need to learn together how to bring the people of the Navajo Nation what they need."

"There are so many rumors about these issues," James Peshlakai added. "People are hearing rumors about proposed wind farms and the initiation of renewed uranium speculation at the Grand Canyon. We have heard rumors about new power lines passing through Cameron by the Dine' Power Authority.

"There are already huge power lines, coal slurry pipelines and other features in place," James continued. "We can't do much about economic development with these things in the way - some are wondering if the entire community should just relocate."

James and Mae Peshlakai decided to hold an event where people from the community could join with elected leaders and various stakeholders in proposed developments within the community to become better educated about the issues at hand and share concerns. They are sponsoring an event they are calling "Gathering for Mother Earth," to provide a venue for the discussion.

Throughout his decades of public service to the Navajo people, James has worked to save land and resources for younger generations.

"My time is almost over," James said. "Now it is the young people's time. It's time for the young people to have a just transition."

"We have heard a lot about biodiesel fuel on the news," James continued. "We have heard that you can produce biodiesel from algae. Cameron has the potential for producing algae, perhaps this is a way to build economic development."

James is also interested in solar cooking - although Cameron does have timber available for firewood, people from other communities less fortunate often come to Cameron to find firewood. This has caused hard feelings in Cameron residents whose customary use areas have been depleted of this important resource.

Churro sheep production is another area where Cameron might benefit.

Another area of interest the Peshlakais would like to address at the gathering is educating victims of the uranium industry - whether miners, millers and their families, as well as those affected by the nuclear tests in Nevada (Down-winders) - on how to apply for benefits.

"Younger elected officials aren't always aware of issues like the uranium industry and what people went through, and how it affected them physically and mentally. It extends through their whole families. It is important to join with our leaders about the issues," Mae said.

"There are a number of things we are interested in," James said. "We want this gathering to be a positive thing. We want to examine how we can increase our standard of living."

James and Mae share a deep concern regarding fuel shortages.

"With the rising costs of fuel, this is a hardship for many people," Mae said. "These families are now forced to sell [their arts and crafts] along the roadside because they can no longer afford to travel to the places they once depended on for selling. This will create harder competition for those families who have always sold along the roadside."

Like many, the Peshlakais have tracked important issues through the years -development on the Sacred San Francisco Peaks, uranium mining and the effects of the industry on Navajo miners and their families, and the need for affordable, renewable energy.

James will also offer another topic he has brainstormed - one he calls "the Far-West Navajo Fair," an event to bring people into the community of Cameron.

The Gathering for Mother Earth will begin the evening of May 2 with singing and entertainment, as well as story telling by James Peshlakai. Camping space will be available. The tentative agenda Saturday morning will begin at 6 a.m. with a flag raising ceremony by the Navajo Vietnam Veterans Group and a sunrise run led by James.

Breakfast will begin at 7, with sweat lodges to be provided. The public meeting portion of the event will begin at 10 a.m. Guest speakers from the Sierra Club, the Hopi, Hualapai, Havasupai and Navajo tribes have been invited, including the Coconino Downwind Uranium Exposure Claims, Navajo Wind Farms Project, Save the Peaks and H2Opi and Dine' for C-aquifer groups.

The Peshlakai family will also host one of their famous earth oven roast beef dinners. There will be cultural activities, entertainment, art sales, program displays from groups such as the Navajo Churro Sheep Project and more.

For more information contact James and Mae Peshlakai at (928) 856-0717.

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