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Chapter 18: Weaving Economic Sustainability, Renewable Energy, and
This chapter introduces concepts that will be helpful in implementing the first phase
of community development. It is imperative that the understanding of economic
sustainability and renewable energy be included in community plans to continue to
develop Indian Country’s community development. Sound development plans will, in
turn, establish a firm cultural foundation.
A belief that economic development is an adjunct to community
development. A conviction that whatever the endeavor, the energy driving
it needs to come from a broad range of citizens. A belief that the climate in
which businesses and labor interact must be beneficial to both. A deeply
held notion that development has to be a two-way street. (Grisham 1999,
A sustainable economy will emphasize sustainable employment and economic
demand management (Roseland 1992, 215). Here are four examples of sustainable
employment. The first is turning compost and trash into resources, such as recycling.
Second is energy and material use efficiency, a case in point would be planning the
density use in a community. Third is greater reliance on renewable energy sources, such
as the conversion from liquid gas to natural gas vehicles. Fourth is increasing community
self-reliance, an example would be wind or solar energy generation. One example of
economic demand management is the thinning of underbrush in forests surrounding a
community and to use the excess wood from the thinning for a beneficial purpose such as
the Hogan Project. i
ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY IN INDIAN COUNTRY
Communities in Indian Country understand how underprivileged they are and why
they continue to be disadvantaged. These communities should embrace the rapid
development of technology and the sudden enclosure of global economic forces.
Community members can use technology to benefit their commun ties by “creating an
economy to keep people on the (their) land” (KenCairn 2001). Others are taking steps to
learn the about the economic environment that has encompassed their tribes. These
members of the community have begun to apply their knowledge to assist their
communities and the tribe as a whole.
Opportunities for advancement in Indian Country are rising due to increased
economic development on many reservations. Low-income communities, such as those
within the Navajo Nation, began their economic development process by utilizing
minority targeted support programs such as the Small Business Administration and the
Center for American Indian Economic Development (CAIED). ii This approach is helpful
to entrepreneurs and to others who are self-propelled to help this process. The
entrepreneurs then begin to transfer their knowledge to other members of the community.
Second, incentives to attract corporations are then constructed to produce jobs,
however, this approach still benefits the corporation and not the local tribe. The
productive assets of the communities are left in the hands of external interests motivated
primarily by profit margins rather than community well being. Thus, patterns of
economic inequality are unaltered and the positive impacts on the community are not of
significant scale (Shavelson 1990).
SHIFTS IN EMPLOYMENT
“According to a survey conducted by the Division of Economic Development in
December, 1997, the civilian labor force on the Navajo Reservation consisted of 51,468
individuals. Of that figure, 45.8 percent were unemployed” (CAIED 2000). The Navajo
Nation currently has two colleges, Dine College and Crownpoint Institute of Technology.
Several universities offer long-distance education centers on the reservation. Many
college graduates accept lucrative offers from off-reservation employers because they are
unable to find suitable employment on their respective reservations. This process
accounts for the demographic change that affects the local economy by shifting the
supply of human resources.
Reservation communities do not have the resources to expand their current economic
situation. For example, the limited employment situation iii does not support the needs of
families with young children. This segment of the population is expected to continuously
increase at a rapid rate. Thus, the community may need more day care facilities,
classroom space, and teachers. Conversely, while the population of elderly people
continues to grow on the reservation, the community may need specialized transportation,
more geriatric care, and a new nursing home. Plans for development in these areas need
to be created.
The following four steps will clarify the reasons for demographic shifts in terms of
labor. First, a community must determine the age distribution and why it is changing.
Second, identify specific groups and determine if these groups are likely to increase or
decrease in number. Third, find out if there is a higher rate of emigration or immigration.
Last, to determine where these people are going to and where they are from (Salant 1990,
Demographics of moderately growing populations can be estimated more accurately
than rapidly growing or declining populations. These two guidelines can help with an
investigation about demographic shifts. Averaging several population estimates is usually
more accurate than relying on only one estimate. Populations of smaller places are more
likely to be overestimated than the populations of larger areas (Salant 1990, 29).
The slow rising job creation and employment rates can be offset to some extent using
education. Many tribes have opened tribal colleges; presently there are 32 tribal colleges
in the United States. iv Each institution is investing in their human resources, however,
many tribes will not see immediate results. The payoff may not come for a decade, but it
will come. In the meantime, it is pertinent that the tribe continues to build their economy
so that these graduates will have opportunities to work at home.
HOME AND COMMUNITY
Homes within reservations no longer resemble those of previous generations. Many
communities have clustered housing built by Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
These houses can be categorized as the simple, fast, low-cost answer to housing
problems. In many communities, including those on Navajo or Pine Ridge reservations,
the home means so much more than shelter. People have learned to share, live simply,
and without many of the benefits that people receive off the reservation. Demographic
issues, such as household population, density, income, and age, will provide essential
information about existing conditions of an area and will help forecast future demand and
“A working definition of a community might be a collection of people, including
individuals both large and small, sharing a common and mutual sense of value” (Joint
Use Design Project 1996). The value is benefiting from being a member of the
community. It includes the responsibility of caring for the community. Without the sense
of ownership, the community has no common grounds in which they communicate. This
is one reason why HUD projects did not work well in Indian Country. Within the past
decade, several Navajo Housing Authority (NHA) v houses on the Navajo Reservation
were given to the renters after they had been renting for well over 20 years. Additional
projects, such as the Hogan Project, will allow individuals to own their homes. The
shared responsibility of caring for the community should then be placed among the
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND URBAN MANAGEMENT
Local governments of Indian Country must take responsibility and bring together
resources that attend to the problems facing their communities. Goals set by the local
governments must have an understanding that present and future generations have a right
to a healthy and sustainable productive environment. vi Other objectives that must be met
are to measure targets in both the short and long-term. Incremental gains are beneficial,
however, the long-term impact is what the community members request most.
Urban management as described here is not aligned with many of the beliefs of the
people in Indian Country. The rapidly growing population of Indian Country has resulted
in countless people leaving the reservation; many of who desire to return to their
respective homelands someday. Two changes will need to be made to achieve sustainable
development and will be difficult to implement in many areas of Indian Country. The
first is for housing authorities in Indian Country to design cluster communities instead of
scattered housing areas. The other is to find a way to make fellow community members
pay for the costs of remediation, but keep in mind that it is even more important to
prevent pollution and the waste of resources in the first place.
In addition, the Navajo Nation has set a goal of completing Comprehensive Land Use
Plans for all its chapters by the year 2003. Land use plans may include water and sewer
lines for use by homes and business. It will also delineate land for preservation,
residential, recreational, commercial, and industrial uses (CAIED 2000). It may also
provide a framework for the type of housing development and building codes used in the
area mentioned above.
POLICY OPTIONS FOR THE USE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY
Several policy applications are needed to solidify a basis for a sustainable community
lifestyle. A variety of methods, including appropriate technologies, recycling, and waste
reduction, are adaptations that will help communities reduce their current levels of
materials and energy consumption. Zoning ordinances create rules of where and how
business will be conducted in certain areas. Ideas of urban sustainability are illustrated in
Roseland’s, Toward Sustainable Communities (1992, 38).
Mixed-use zoning includes streets devoted to walking, cycling, and public transport.
Other ideas include the heavy reliance on renewable energy sources and rooftop gardens.
Efforts are underway to promote recycling in Indian Country. However, community
members need to understand how to separate compost from trash. The integration of
work and home in the mixed-use zoning design will reduce the need for travel. The
reduction in travel time is essential to maintaining a healthy work/life balance by
allowing people to spend time at home with their families.
Each type of renewable energy must have guidelines to effectively use that source of
energy. For example, solar ordinances will allow the best use of solar energy in an urban
or rural setting. Ordinances can protect solar access to the south face of buildings during
solar heating hours. Ordinances can complement planned use and expected densities of
solar energy to adapt to existing development and vegetation. Solar access ordinances
may include, but are not limited to: the orientation of streets and lots, the placement and
orientation of buildings, and the type and placement of trees on public street rights of way
and other public property (Roseland 1992, 158).
Community groups are effective in voicing the needs and concerns of their respective
community. There are four elements in forming an effective community group. The first
is to give each member the opportunity to express his or her opinion. At times, a few
members of the group may oppose the majority opinion, however, it has been proven that
if the minority group is fully heard, they may not block the majority vote. Community
leaders, residents, key stakeholders, elected officials, school principal, key teachers,
parent association members, businesses, church and religious organizations, institutions,
community clubs, and nonprofit agencies are different segments of a community that
should be invited to the group.
Objectives of the group must be approved by a majority of its members. A constant
feedback loop should be maintained to ensure consistent communication. Some people
from outside the group may be invited to meetings to share important insights. These
people, many of whom have experience in community development, are considered
Members of community groups must take on certain roles. One role is a host, the
person who plays this role will make sure the group has the appropriate facilities for
group meetings. In addition, the host will ensure proper arrangements are made for
dignitaries. Another role is the facilitator, this person will set agendas for meetings and
make sure the meeting achieve the set goals. A third role is a scribe. The scribe will
record activities of the group. A fourth role is the spark plug. A spark plug is essential
because they know how to motivate the group and keep them moving in the set direction.
It is extremely important to realize the value of a collective effort in communicating
with large government bodies. More attention is paid to an organization, even small,
local neighborhood groups. Signed letters coming from a large number of people,
especially in their own words, carries more weight than one to two responses, however
sincere and informed. vii
Community groups will hold many types of meetings depending on the tone they
want to set. Private or confidential information are discussed at one-to-one meetings.
Decisions concerning the neighborhood are made at neighborhood committee meetings;
this type of meeting must have a climate that should be formal and yet public enough to
allow community members to watch. This is where many communities provide
information to members to be discussed at a later date. An all-community meeting is in a
formal setting with people outside the community in attendance. Usually, this type of
meetings will discuss issues of concern to neighboring communities. Due to the
uncertainty of the reactions of the audience, this type of meeting must send public
information cautiously with regard to all who are in attendance.
The most informal of all meetings are living room meetings where a handful of
people will gather to exchange information. Evening meetings are like committee
meetings but semi-informal and to a public audience. The goals of these meetings are to
provide information to a limited public audience. Focus groups are different from the
meetings mentioned above; these meetings target a group who will provide specific
feedback to proposals.
Community groups must either be in development or response mode (Buncom
Citizens Committee, 8). Many communities in Indian Country will need to be in
development mode. Response mode is when a problem is handed to a community, for
instance, the renovation of cluster housing. Development mode is when the community
has ideas that they would like to implement or have heard. Community development must
“start at the community level where people are at” (KenCairn 2000). In addition, goals
must be set on issues the members are most concerned about.
Priority setting should be the primary responsibility of the group. Priorities will allow
the group to set objectives for the group to adhere to. Setting priorities means listing the
steps you need to take in the order they should be taken. Priority setting begins with an
outline of an idea. This can be accomplished by brainstorming ideas that group members
already have, what they already know about the ideas, and where to obtain useful
information about the ideas. As mentioned earlier, an experienced outside person may be
useful in determining a suitable time frame for the idea. A decision must be made about
Targeting specific, measurable, goals are crucial to economic and community
development. To determine incremental achievements, the community group must
measure progress toward meeting them. One common pitfall in measuring progress is to
measure everything. It is advised that the group focuses only one measure at a time
(Ratner 2000, 10).
The community group must devise measures that are broad in focus and can be
changed as progress is calculated. If the group meets the measure it has set, then it should
have accomplished a part of the goal. Measurement provides tangible evidence of
progress that motivates community members to keep at it. Measurement helps us know
where we are now, and to get to where we want to be. Members of the group may provide
measurements and indicators on the best way to achieve their goals. An indicator is
something that must be changed, or a condition that must be achieved, in order to claim
that progress is being made toward a goal (Ratner 2000, 18).
Next, deadlines and steps to accomplishing targets in order to meet the deadlines must
be made. A flow chart or other pictorial chart that shows progress will be displayed at a
group office and during meetings to keep the issue at the forefront of the group members’
minds. At this time, assignments to members are made. Each step must have a person
appointed to it. These assignments are tentative and will most likely be changed later and
the full responsibilities of each step become clearer.
When the duties of each member become apparent, the project leader will delegate
responsibilities to members. The members who have been assigned responsibilities must
accept them and confirm that they have the resources to accomplish the task they have
been given. Deadlines and a format to report information will be determined. An
important reminder is to document each step.
Collecting data for information regarding Indian Country may be cumbersome.
Finding the exact information that one is looking for will be few and far between.
Contacting the tribal office will also be helpful. Beware that some offices may not be able
to provide support while others can only direct you to other sources. Begin your search at
a local library or a nearby college library. It will be most useful to find a well-informed
reference librarian who can assist you in tracking down documents, phone numbers, and
personal contacts (Salant 1990, 15-16). After reviewing the documents gathered, it would
be best to look into the bibliography to find additional resources.
The chapter has attempted to solidify the relationships among the concepts of
economic sustainability, renewable energy, and community development. Communities
in Indian Country will need to make significant changes to ensure the success of a strong
cultural foundation. Smith states that, “sustainable economic systems can work hand in
hand with developing cultures” (2001, 23). A strong cultural foundation cannot be
developed without the three concepts discussed in this chapter.
www.cba.nau.edu/ICE. This website has extensive information regarding the Hogan
Center for American Indian Development is located in Building 72, Northern Arizona
University, Flagstaff. Has more information on “Doing business on the Navajo Nation.”
Smith, p.136. An expansion of this concept is thoroughly discussed in Smith’s book.
www.collegefund.org/colleges/colleges.shtm This website has links to each of the tribal
NHA is the largest provider of housing to the Navajo people.
Toronto Declaration on World Cities and Their Environment, 1991. See Roseland, p.
297 for a text copy of the declaration.
Buncom Citizens Committee, p.7. This is a pamphlet and does not have information on
the year it was published.