The path of Janene Yazzie in any given year does not follow any one direction. She could be leading teach-ins in the Southwest of the U.S. to educate Native Americans about the impacts of an oil spill on their watershed. She could be speaking at the United Nations about the wills and ways of Mother Earth. She could be exhausted, angry at the end of two weeks of negotiations with countries and fossil fuel companies about the effects of carbon markets on native lands and their peoples. She could be sitting together with other Indigenous leaders from around the world to develop a “gold standard” for their rights.
In short, she oscillates, constantly, to whatever physical, intellectual or emotional arena she must in order to pull the strongest punches in the fight to secure the rights of Indigenous communities around the world.
Harvard educated, Yazzie co-founded Sixth World Solutions in 2011, a for-profit business that helps Navajo Nation communities in sustainable project development and capacity building to aid their livelihoods. Since, she has gone on to lead numerous other advocacy efforts in the U.S. and abroad, eventually landing in her current role as co-convenor of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development.
As she carves her way deeper into the international arena, her spiritual connection to her homeland only seems to grow stronger. “I am fortunate to come from a place where the footprints of my ancestors are tied to the landscape,” she says. “It’s this inherent and ancestral knowledge that ties our modern struggles to something deeper than achieving equality and inclusiveness in imperfect manmade systems and institutions that do not understand the sacred and inherent value of the universe.”