The Navajo Nation is experiencing a "brain drain," and the only remedy is to attract industry to the reservation, Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald said Sunday.
Addressing representatives from what he said were 42 off-reservation companies, MacDonald completed a two-day development forum by discussing his five-point plan for the economic salvation of the nation's largest tribe.The event, which was sponsored by a number of Arizona companies, was aimed at creating a marriage between the tribe and high-technology firms.
MacDonald said he hoped the forum would be a beginning which could lead to 40,000 high-technology jobs on the sprawling, 25,000-square-mile reservation by the turn of the century.
The meeting was held in this outpost about 160 miles west of Window Rock, the tribal capital, because it is the home of Tooh Dineh Industries, which manufactures electrical components.
"In the 19th century, other forces told us where to live. In the 20th century, we were told how to live. In the 21st century, we, the Navajo people, must chart our own destiny," MacDonald said.
MacDonald said he had too long watched young Navajos leave the reservation for schooling, never to return.
According to census figures, the reservation has a population of 203,000, with a work force of about 100,000. The average tribal age is just under 19 years, officials said.
"We want to build a high-tech center here on the reservation that is second to none," the chairman added. "We need to create another 40,000 high-tech jobs by the year 2000."
He said his plan includes:
-Luring non-Indian corporations to the reservation.
-Spurring the growth of existing Navajo companies.
-Encouraging new Navajo business starts
-Convincing other governmental entities to help in establishing a high-technology center on the reservation,
-And cultivating a specialized market.
Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., one of many dignitaries who attended, said MacDonald's plan was essential and should be within reach under his ambitious grasp.