We seek to empower, give voice to, and protect the interests of Diné (Navajo) communities. We started as a small, community-based organization in 1988 to prevent the location of a medical waste incinerator and dump in the Navajo community of Dilkon, Arizona. After our successful defense in Dilkon, we received considerable regional attention, and were soon called upon by other Navajo groups to assist in facilitating similar efforts. We have thus grown into a multi-issue, Reservation-wide organization.
Our growth has permitted us the chance to share among our Diné people many experiences and struggles, and to see a distressing pattern in the way the system of funding and supporting environmental activism fails to work in Native lands. Read more here:
BRIEF ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY
Diné is a 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 Diné who strive to maintain a relationship with Mother Earth based on the cultural tenets of balance and harmony. For us, membership means being an active advocate who protects, preserves and honors Mother Earth, in the manner that has been handed down to us from our ancestors. We are local, community people working together on issues that affect our communities, our environment and our cultural landscapes .
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 medical waste incinerator and dump. After our Tribal government had approved the development and told us we were powerless to stop it, we educated ourselves and our community, organized and defeated the toxic waste development 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 avid supporters of substance abuse counseling and reform.
In 1990, we co-founded the Indigenous Environmental Network.
In 1991, we defended the community of Huerfano, NM and our sacred mountain Dził Náʼoodiłii from a proposed asbestos dump. The dump was on its way to approval by the New Mexico Land Use Board when we rallied community and Tribal support opposition. Ultimately, the company removed their proposal.
In 1994, after years of struggle, we put a stop to reckless timber cutting in the Chuska Mountains and Defiance Plateau and it continues to monitor the Navajo Nation’s forestry department, which may resume logging even though critical habitat within the forests has yet to be restored.
In 1996, we started an innovative forest mapping project with the ultimate goal of reforestation in the Chuska Mountains.
In 1999, we spearheaded the campaign to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act and joined with other groups to form the Western States RECA Reform Coalition. Although the reforms were enacted in 2000, Diné CARE continues to press for the just and timely delivery of compensation to victims of radiation exposure and for the prevention of future uranium mining on Navajo land. We continue to work with other native groups to fight uranium mining and storage on native land outside of the Navajo Nation.
In July of 2003, we formally filed a protest against proposed oil and gas drilling in Old Dinetah (ancestral Navajo land) in northern New Mexico, where active wells have already severely damaged the environment, contaminated drinking water, and adversely affected the health of tens of thousands of Diné living in New Mexico.
The reality is that our people are doing this work because we no longer have a choice. 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 Western perspectives of economic and energy development. As a consequence, they are more aware of injustices, technologies and ways of thinking that threaten their livelihood, their families, their communities and the lands upon which they depend. It has become a struggle for the survival of “the People” as a whole.
As a result of our successes, we have been approached by numerous Native communities, as well as non-Native communities, who are faced with devastating environmental and social impacts. We have developed a culturally appropriate method for organizing, educating and advocacy. We provide the opportunity for a truly indigenous method of environmental protection and alternative development strategies. We are active in many communities, as local people access the knowledge and experience of our long-term members, who embrace the wisdom and guidance of their elders. Local people involved in protecting their communities become partners in Diné CARE’s mission, by taking the leadership role in defending their land, proposing alternatives to outdated “development” plans, and by showing others throughout the Navajo Nation that our traditional beliefs and practices hold a tremendous amount of relevance for the problems facing today’s world.