Here is some food for thought, thanks to HighCountry News:
Is their success sustainable?
The land on the Padres Mesa Demonstration Ranch, in northeastern Arizona, stretched so vast and wild that it could be perspective-skewing, easy to get lost in. But Bill Inman effortlessly navigated his truck through a sea of blue grama grass, broom weed and sage. When he spotted a herd of cows, he hit the brakes.
“She’s a box of chocolates,” Kimberly Yazzie said as she pointed at a stately heifer.
About a dozen cows with week-old calves were bedded down in late winter forage, all muted greens and gold.
“She’s pretty,” Inman agreed.
Inman and Yazzie are trying to grow a beef brand – Navajo Beef – with a community of Navajo families, Yazzie’s included, who’d been relocated to this stretch of desert as part of the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act. Most brought livestock during the move, much of it without papers, vaccines, or marketable genetics. Inman and Yazzie are helping them transform those animals into premium beef. It’s a way to grow people’s incomes in an area with few economic opportunities. The federal agency managing the relocation has bolstered their efforts, but after 40 years of existence it’s expected to shutter, threatening to dismantle progress.
KIMBERLY YAZZIE WAS BORN on a rural expanse of the Navajo Nation, which stretches for 27,000 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The wide-open land – Yazzie’s closest neighbor lived about 30 miles away – lent itself easily to livestock. Yazzie’s grandparents kept 80 sheep and more than 50 cows.
“In the Navajo Diné traditional way of living the livestock is one of the main values,” Yazzie said. “It’s taught if you have these things, you’re going to continue to live a good life, you’re going to do great things and you’re going to succeed.”
But Yazzie’s family lived on land disputed by the Navajo and Hopi tribes, a conflict instigated by federal policies from the 1800s. With the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act, the federal government sought to resolve the disagreement in a way it often did when dealing with Indigenous peoples, by relocating them. Over decades, about 3,700 Navajo families left Hopi land and vice versa.
Yazzie’s grandparents moved in the late 1980s. Yazzie’s immediate family followed in the late 1990s. Their new home was in the New Lands, a newly-created satellite of trust land, about 350,000 acres on the reservation’s southern border in northeastern Arizona. They occupied a house on a one-acre plot, in a cluster of other homes built by the Office of Navajo-Hopi Indian Relocation (ONHIR), a federal agency. “Giving up all of their open land space, it traumatized everybody,” Yazzie said. “They still shed tears for where they used to live.”…
Read the whole article here.