Besides income earned from natural resources in the region, the Diné (which means “the people”, and is the name Navajo tribes use to refer to themselves in their own language) are engaged in major development targeted toward health, education, economic development, and employment. The Navajo Nation faces a 45% unemployment rate and while federal policies have promoted resource extractive industries, the small business sector remains underdeveloped. Many non-profit organizations, tribal programs, and government entities have made it their mission to change this statistic but even with government funding, technical support, impact assessments, feasibility studies, and financing, these efforts have made very little impact on the Navajo economy overall, and there remains a real need for small business incubation networks, which are appearing more and more.
DinéHózhó aims to integrate Diné/Navajo culture, sustainability, conservation, and local knowledge to realize a placed-based sustainable economy that upholds the Hózhó concept and Diné principles. They further strive to cultivate seeds of capacity building, regional empowerment, and economic livelihoods that transition toward sustainable communities and improves the Diné quality of life.
Seeing the need for investment in the tourism industry of Navajo Nation, Planeterra reached out to DinéHózhó, a community-based low-profit limited liability company that works with Indigenous-owned businesses assist in their development and connect them to the tourism industry. One of the current DinéHózhó initiatives includes working towards the creation of a corridor of locally-owned Diné businesses on the route towards the Grand Canyon East Gate, one of the most travelled roads around this incredibly popular destination. Planeterra partnered with them to offer G Adventures travellers their first Dine/Navajo experience on popular routes through the western US region.
Along with encouraging more travellers to stop at roadside craft cooperatives and artisan markets, Planeterra has partnered with the Native Grill, a DinéHózhó-supported food truck owned and run by the Littleboy family, just outside of Cameron, Arizona. Starting in 2019, G Adventures travellers will be stopping at the Native Grill for a meal, and to learn a little more about what support the tourism industry can provide for family businesses in the area, including artisan cooperatives. Encouraging purchases directly from artisans is an excellent way to empower, celebrate culture, and create livelihoods for Indigenous people, more impacts we envision for this project.