The leader of the country’s largest Indian reservation threw his support behind the neighboring Hopi Tribe, whose lawmakers declared environmental groups unwelcome on the reservation.
Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. and Hopi lawmakers say environmentalists’ efforts could hurt the tribes’ struggling economies by slowing or stopping coal mining.
Shirley said Wednesday that he will stand in solidarity with the Hopi Tribe, and joined Hopi lawmakers in encouraging other tribes to re-evaluate their relationships with environmentalists.
Environmentalists have waged a campaign against coal as an energy source, in favor of renewable energy such as wind and solar. But the Navajo and Hopi long have depended on coal revenues to fund their governments and pay the salaries of tribal employees on reservations where half the work force is unemployed.
On the Hopi reservation, revenues from coal mined by Peabody Energy in northern Arizona’s Black Mesa area make up 70 percent of the tribe’s $15 million budget. On the Navajo Nation, those revenues make up nearly 10 percent of the tribe’s budget.