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Naeva Builds Resiliency in New Mexico Native Communities


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Naeva’s commitment to creating opportunities and improving the quality of life for Native American communities in New Mexico is centered in a desire to protect the continuity of Native American culture. Centering social, economic and environmental justice principles that advance healthy and sustainable communities for Native families living in New Mexico helps them promote awareness and action on issues facing Native American communities through community organizing and education strategies that are culturally relevant and help unite the community. 

Located in New Mexico, Naeva (formerly known as the Native American Voters Alliance [NAVA] Education Project) works toward uniting community stakeholders through civic engagement, policy implementation, and renewable energy across the American Southwest. They organize across the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah and work on Indigenous National policy in the areas of energy, votership, and infrastructure. 

Naeva’s mission centers on engaging through voter education, non-partisan voter registration, and outreach in Urban Indian communities as well as Tribal Nations, including the Navajo Nation and the 20 Pueblos, Jicarilla Apache Nation, and Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico. Naeva partners with organizations, tribal leaders, and many different communities. It’s through this civic engagement that Naeva strives toward long-term positive change and community empowerment. Offering training and workshops to Indigenous communities, they examine the impact that power structures have on their daily lives and how to protect their collective power.

Naeva is committed to creating the change that is needed for the Indigenous future we envision.

Ahtza Dawn Chavez, Executive Director, Naeva

Naeva has worked on educating the public and decision-makers on the benefits of policies that address access to the local energy economy and existing power grabs on the future of renewable energy across New Mexico. One of their goals is to create a fair and sustainable world that Native people have an equitable part in, and to protect their homelands, water, and air for future generations.

New Mexico’s Tribal lands, water, and Indigenous health has suffered from environmental racism due to extractive industry development on or near Tribal lands since the 1800s. Many communities continue to be affected by a lack of infrastructure, water, electricity, and broadband internet. Roughly 30 percent of residents on the Navajo Nation lack running water and/or electricity today. 

Seeking to transition away from extractive methods, Naeva works to expand access to renewable energy as a tool to build resilience within communities. This includes ensuring a viable renewable energy workforce that includes Navajo people, through job training, local apprenticeship programs, and Tribal funding for renewable projects.

Make your voice heard. VOTE!“It’s essential to recognize the unjust, horrific, and harmful history of our government’s role in displacing and erasing generations of Native and Tribal communities,” said Katherine Lorenzo, Energy Foundation’s Program Manager, West Campaigns. “By investing in the work of organizations like Naeva, we can help provide the resources necessary for them to lead the way as they build up and uplift Native and Tribal communities.”

Naeva leaders hope to continue bringing more urban and resource-isolated grassroots organizations into larger renewable energy sessions. They continue to host/co-sponsor solar energy and renewable energy summits to inform New Mexico Tribes and Tribal stakeholders about the benefits of clean energy and how to introduce projects into their communities. 

“Naeva is committed to creating the change that is needed for the Indigenous future we envision,” says Ahtza Dawn Chavez, Executive Director of Naeva. “We invested in a property in the heart of Albuquerque, NM, as the home for our Naeva Indigenous Center, where we will continue our power-building, organizing, cultural resilience, and youth enrichment programming. We recognize the power we help build through direct organizing alongside our Tribal leaders, community stakeholders, the Urban Indian relatives, and local or national Native-led/serving Native organizations. We are blessed with the desire and ability to build all-Indigenous led teams that work hard to find solutions and create policy so that we as Indigenous people, dictate our own future. We are building Native Power! With our every breath, we honor our ancestors and future generations in the reclamation of Native prosperity and power.” 

The organization’s work doesn’t stop there. They continue to work with both non-Native and Native-led environmental organizational partners within New Mexico and the greater Navajo Nation to develop strategies, inform renewable energy policy across the state/region, and invest in Tribal renewable and infrastructure projects for decades to come with the ultimate goal of connecting every New Mexican with access to clean energy.

“Naeva’s deep grassroots community-organizing efforts have mobilized and promoted civic engagement in tribal communities in New Mexico and Navajo Nation so their families can access safe, good-paying jobs and protect their land, air, and water,” said Lorenzo. “As we work to secure an equitable clean energy future, we must ensure all communities—including the most disproportionately impacted—are front and center.”


Story author Giselle Garcia was an Energy Foundation intern in the summer of 2022.