Giving Compass’ Take:
• Irina Zhorov depicts the sustainability dilemma facing Navajo Beef, a brand comprised of displaced Navajo families raising premium cattle.
• How vital is Navajo Beef to those involved? How can we help sustain Navajo Beef and similar enterprises without contributing to the exploitation of marginalized Indigenous communities?
The land on the Padres Mesa Demonstration Ranch, in northeastern Arizona, stretched so vast and wild that it could be perspective-skewing. 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.
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.
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.”
Now, nearly four decades in, ONHIR is slated to close. There’s no timeline in place or a plan for who, if anyone, will take over Padres Mesa, which remains a universally liked ONHIR initiative.
Read the full article about Navajo beef by Irina Zhorov at The Counter.
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