The planned closure of an Arizona coal plant has local Native Americans worried about their economic future. The Navajo Generating Station near the tiny town of Page, Arizona, is a major source of jobs and incomes for the Navajo tribe.

Even though it will probably take years for the coal plant to be decommissioned, tribal members are scrambling for something to replace the revenue it represents. In this remote desert region of Arizona, little else in the way of jobs or economic infrastructure exists.

Even with the coal plant, the Navajo Nation is struggling with a 42% poverty rate. That’s the worst of all 50 states for a Native American group. Navajo people are unemployed at four times the rate of the average Arizonan. Just 1 in 5 Navajo residents hold a full-time job.

Many Navajo tribal members will soon be faced with extremely difficult choices. Do they move away from their ancestral home to find jobs? Do they scramble to bring in alternative sources of income in the uncertain years left in the life of the Navajo Generating Station?

One possibility being floated is that Navajo Nation concentrate on tourism. That’s what the small community of Moab, Utah, did a generation ago when that community also experienced economic hardship after uranium mining ceased to be the primary source of jobs.

But building a tourist destination takes time – certainly years – so it’s an option that won’t solve the short-term crisis sure to be created by the closure of the coal plant.

Categories: Native American, Native American Culture, Navajo Nation

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