An independent and economically strong Navajo Nation in the coming century was envisioned by Navajo Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald in an address Saturday at the Arizona Newspapers Association's summer workshop.
"The 21st century will be one where the Navajo Nation will determine for itself how it wants to live, rather than living according to someone else's standards," MacDonald said. "The Navajo Nation aims to enter this new century with a foundation putting it on a level economic playing field with the states of the region."Today, the Navajo people recognize that we do not have to be caught up in the sweep of history around us," MacDonald said. "We can assume control of our destiny. We can look forward, not back, because we have emerged from the ashes of a dying nation, like the mythical phoenix, with our sense of ourselves intact."
MacDonald noted the tribe has attracted a General Dynamic Corp. plant to produce missiles and has signed an agreement with a Florida company for a joint venture to manufacture housing.
By 1990, the tribe intends to be America's largest producer of fresh gourmet Shiitak mushrooms, which sell for between $20 and $30 a pound, he said. The mushrooms will be grown in potato sheds of the tribal enterprise, Navajo Agricultural Products Industries.
"In recreation and tourism, we have mapped out a strategy to turn our entire reservation into a destination resort," MacDonald said. The tribe, which now gets about 7 percent of the tourist dollars spent in Arizona, believes it can increase that share to between 15 percent and 20 percent.
Plans call for establishing as many as 40 different sites and destinations as tourist attractions, employing about 4,000 Navajos, MacDonald said.
The tribal chairman, who has a college degree in engineering, also said the tribe is embarking on plans for a high-technology project on the sprawling reservation that covers portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah "to stem the brain drain existing on all native American reservations in this country."
The proposed Navajo Technology Center at Leupp, about 40 miles northwest of Flagstaff, "will be our very own Silicon Valley," MacDonald said, referring to California's cluster of high-tech plants.
"We plan to offer employment in aerospace, computer software and the electronics industries to our highly talented Navajo engineers, scientists and other university graduates who in the past have had to leave our homelands to find meaningful work."