14-R Ranch in Nahata Dziil, AZ, Navajo Nation
In 1974, Congress created the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation (ONHIR) to promote a comprehensive settlement of the land disputes between the Navajo and Hopi tribes. As part of the strategy to settle the dispute, hundreds of Navajo families were relocated to Nahata Dziil, a 365,000-acre parcel of ranch land the federal government acquired in the early 1980s.
This relocation led to generational trauma. Against their wishes, families were removed from the areas that held the stories of their ancestors. While the removal had devastating effects on the community, they are now taking proactive steps to rebuild and create a strong foundation for future generations. The community asked Grand Canyon Trust to help the 14-R Ranch team create a strategic plan that leads to their first goal of implementing a sustainable, ecologically responsible, livestock ranch operation.
Today many Navajo ranchers, including those in Nahata Dziil, take their cattle to markets in nearby off-reservation towns like Cortez, Colorado, and Sun Valley, Arizona, where they receive anywhere from $300–$400 less per head by going through middlemen than if they sold the stock directly. Because of this, many Navajo ranchers are not paid the dividends they desire or deserve. The money they are losing could help increase their herd or improve their ranching operation. However, the “middleman” negotiation process is what most Navajo ranchers are familiar with. The 14-R team is currently doing outreach to educate grazing permit holders on other payment mechanisms, such as bundling, that are used in the industry.
The ONHIR created a ranch operation called Padres Mesa Ranch, which serves as a tool to help build the capacity of community members who are grazing permit holders within the 14-R Ranch. The name 14-R comes from the 14 parcels range management units in the Nahata Dziil, where community members practice in-common grazing. Padres Mesa Ranch, which prioritizes sustainable, ecological ranching practices as part of its land stewardship, has taught the community about verification and record keeping, as well as helped them understand ecological stewardship practices that preserve the land.
As Padres Mesa Ranch does its part in building capacity that will lead to a top-quality beef product to be marketed both on and off-reservation, the community is exploring the idea of creating a nonprofit community development corporation. The Trust is helping the community plan and facilitate culturally appropriate outreach and education to outline their goals and vision for the ranch operation. In addition to bringing technical expertise and resources, the Trust is also working to help strengthen the relationships with the existing organizations, such as the Nahata Dziil Chapter house leadership, ONHIR, and the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission. We are also helping the team draft a business plan for the ranch.