Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly congratulated a group of 19 graduates that successfully completed courses from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Job Training Initiative (JTI) Dec. 4.
The graduates, all Navajo, completed training to clean up uranium waste. The students learned to mitigate and measure radon and how to handle hazardous waste.
President Shelly said their training would help them restore the natural balance of the earth that was affected when the earth was mined for uranium.
"Each one of us are made with four sacred elements," Shelly said. "You are the four elements, the four elements that are sacred to the Navajo people."
More than 100 people attended the graduation program. Superfund JTI targeted the Navajo Nation for recruits and graduates marking the first time Superfund JTI has focused their efforts on a tribal nation.
"This initiative to train local residents to help clean up uranium mine sites is very important to me," Shelly said, adding that he thought so highly of the graduates' accomplishments that he chose to attend the graduation, missing the White House Tribal Nations Summit in Washington, D.C.
President Shelly said the graduates were making the Navajo Nation stronger.
"We must grow our economic strength and each job that is created and filled by Navajo workers, we become economically stronger," he said.
Superfund JTI targeted the Navajo Nation after the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency unsuccessfully bid for a grant that would have brought job training to the Navajo Nation. Shelly made the need for job training a topic during a meeting with US EPA Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld in June.
More than 120 people applied for the 20 positions available.
"Congratulations to the graduates. You are valuable, precious children of the Navajo Nation," Shelly said.