08/28/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Looking Backwards in Order to Move Forward

A group of original denizens of this land have taken a big step in the move toward sustainability. The Navajo Nation, currently saddled with a 44% unemployment rate, has become the first Native American tribe to pass green jobs legislation. Obviously this move is intended to bring this astronomical rate, which is far above the national rate, down.

The Navajo Green Economy Commission was created by a vote of the tribal lawmakers and is expected to take two years to enact the entire legislation. After exploring the tribe's employment needs, the commission will seek out financing from federal and state agencies, including the federal
stimulus program. It will also seek private sector support and grants from philanthropic foundations.

The legislation will allow members of the Navajo Nation, which covers more than 26,000 square miles, to apply for financing to develop small-scale green and sustainable businesses that must produce minimal or no greenhouse emissions or counterbalance the effects of those emissions. The businesses could include organic sheep and cattle farming, weatherproofing housing stock, domestic solar, wind generation, or harvesting rain water among so many other possibilities.

Right now a large portion of the Navajo Nation's income is dependent on royalties paid by coal, oil and gas industries for using its land, so the green jobs initiative is a proactive and responsible way to address unemployment while creating a plan for sustainability. We can learn a great deal from a society that was founded on self-reliance. If this plan succeeds, it may prove to be a good model for many other communities.

Jonathan A. Schein is the publisher of and