Janene Yazzie is a powerful Native community activist. She is co-founder and CEO of Sixth World Solutions, which works with Dine’ (Navajo) communities to promote sustainability, environmental justice, and self-governance. She co-founded the first Navajo Nation community-led watershed planning program to assert local control in the sustainable management, restoration, and protection of natural resources.
Janene will tell you she was born into this work and has built a career and life doing what she is most passionate about, “helping my people on frontline battle systemic injustice.” And a big piece of her work is to get clean water to her tribe.
The Navajo Nation is the size of Connecticut, and 30-40% of households do not have running water. For many households, water is their largest expense. The pandemic, severe drought conditions and a legacy of contamination including lead, magnesium, arsenic and even uranium create a perfect storm of need.
Because of her tireless work to bring water to her people, Janene knew even before the first case of COVID was diagnosed that it would devastate her community and that remote and vulnerable members would not be served. As Janene puts it, “You can’t wash your hands with bad water.”
With other Native women they created an all-volunteer grassroots Indigenous-led group operating on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations, the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief, with Janene serving as the New Mexico lead.
Her work has earned international recognition. Janene is Sustainable Development Program Coordinator for the International Indian Treaty Council and the council’s representative as co-convenor of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group of the U.N. High-Level Political Forum on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.