Authors: Maritza Martinez
Every year Claudia Jackson and her daughters continue the family tradition of shearing sheep along with her parents who are sheep ranchers. Her work at Diné Biinanish Yá’át’éehgo Nooséél (Navajo Green Jobs) is deeply aligned with the traditions of her family. Being green is “the same culturally as what my family has been doing” she says. “The elders understand it,” she says about the green economy, “they say ‘these are the solutions we have forgotten.’” For Claudia, the promise of the green economy is also the promise of bringing together the wisdom of the older generation and the younger generation. Both groups have so much to offer and to learn from each other, whether it is learning to spin the wool from the sheep into yarn and using social media to engage with others in the green movement.
“I am not working for this one program, I am working for the people.”
As the Navajo Green Jobs Coordinator, Claudia is working to develop a green business incubation program in communities. She sees her role as the maestro of the green movement on Navajo Nation, bringing many of the groups and organizations working on the issues together to work harmoniously as a whole to reach their goals. “To collaborate you have to go outside of your circle,” she says of her success working with community groups, businesses and elected officials. In order to build the green movement on Navajo Nation, Claudia has had to look beyond the priorities of each entity and identify the common goals of the movement. Culturally, this makes perfect sense as well. There is a long tradition of partnership and collaboration going back to the elders meeting at the trading posts and working together.
“I have to walk the talk. I’ve had to change my lifestyle.”
Claudia quickly realized that working collaboratively also means opening up personally as a means of building trust with communities. “In my culture you have to say your clan and that is how people know you. If they don’t know you, they don’t know how to approach you,” she says of working within Navajo communities. There is a saying in Navajo, doo’adanjit’įįhgo, which means: You can’t be shy. You have to walk up to people and talk to them. As someone who has always liked to be in the background doing the work, taking on a leadership role has been a learning experience and a personal challenge for Claudia. Taking on this leadership position has meant some lifestyle changes, from carefully choosing her words in public to modeling green practices in the community.
“Everything I teach is about growing.”
When she starting farming a plot of land at the North Leupp Family Farms, she brought her parents and children along with her to help plant crops. The joy of working together as a family yielded a great harvest. Claudia attributes this to “the love and connection with the earth” they felt as they cultivated the land. She approaches all of her work with this same philosophy of collaboration and synergy with the earth, drawing inspiration from her family and from the elders in her community who see her mission as “the work they knew we had to come back to.”
“You always have to have time for yourself”
Claudia meditates and runs to stay focused. Making space to recharge is so important for leaders. For Claudia, running is a means of meditation. In February, Claudia will be running in the Sedona Half Marathon to raise funds for green projects in Navajo communities. It has been seven years since Claudia’s last half marathon and she is ready to prove she can complete it in about two hours.Check outher blog about her training and her work. Or, sponsor her!