A Brief Organizational History
Diné is word by which the Navajo people refer to themselves. It means, roughly, “the people.” We are a membership organization by and for the Diné, the People. We do not collect dues or run membership drives. Our work is mostly sponsored by foundation grants. Our members are not only those who are leaders in their communities, but all those Diné who strive to maintain a relationship with Mother Earth based on balance and harmony. For us, membership means taking up the cause of honoring our Earth, and honoring the perspective toward Mother Earth that has been handed down to us from our ancestors. We are local, community people working together on issues that affect our communities.
Some of our successes include:
• In 1988, we formed to defend our first community of Dilkon, in the Southwestern portion of the Navajo Nation, from the threat of a toxic waste and incinerator and dump. After our Tribal government had already approved the dump and told us we were powerless to stop it, we educated ourselves and our community, organed and put a stop to the toxic waste plans.
• In the late 1980s we led a march on the New Mexico state capitol in a successful bid to press for the reform of alcohol sales in reservation border towns. We have been active in substance abuse counseling and reform.
• In 1990, we co-founded the Indigenious Environmental Network.
• In 1991, we defended the community of Huerfano, NM and our sacred mountain Dzil B Nä oodil Bii from a proposed asbestos dump. The dump ws on its way to approval by the New Mexico land use board when we rallied community and Tribal support opposition. Ultimately, the company planning to dump there removed their proposal.
• In 1994, after years of struggle, we put a stop to reckless timber cutting in the Navajo Nation forests.
• In 1996, we started an innovative forest mapping project with the ultimate goal reforestation in the Chuska Mountains.
• In 1998 through the present, we have been involved in bringing relief victims of radiation exposure on the Navajo Nation, and in the fight to prevent furture mining. Our biggest victory so far has been the reform of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
The reality is that our people is doing this work because we have no choice anymore. Many of our traditional people are being discriminated against and exploited on their own lands, simply because their ways are not “progressive” or centered around Anglo notions of economic development. As a consequence, they have become more aware of injustices, technologies and ways of thinking that are directly impacting their families, their clans, their communities and the lands upon which they depend. It has become a struggle for the survival of the People as a whole.