Graduation Year


Graduation Month


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

School or Department



Environmental Studies

Faculty Mentor

David Moore

Faculty Mentor Department


Faculty Reader(s)

David Moore


Navajo, coal mining, Black Mesa, colonization, survivance, activism


Black Mesa is a mineral-rich area of the Navajo and Hopi Nations in Arizona; it is both the locus of the historic so-called Hopi-Navajo land conflict and the coal mines that have helped make possible the electricity usage of Las Vegas. It is also a case study in cultural change and resistance in response to pressures of industrialization and capitalism. In an interdisciplinary, creative nonfiction writing project, I am looking in particular at the pressures on sheepherding as livelihood in Black Mesa. I will examine how sheepherding has changed since the advent of the Black Mesa and Kayenta coal mines. I will examine the question of why certain Dine’ continue to oppose the coal mines, and how much agency traditional Dine’ have in “deciding” whether or not to relocate or take part in a coal-driven economy. My approach is qualitative, self-reflexive, and participatory; I am drawing on historical documents, previous economic and anthropological studies, contextual histories of the region, interviews, and my personal experience herding sheep in the vicinity of Black Mesa Coal Mine. Trying to understand these interactions as a nonnative has highlighted for me the importance and politics of storytelling in shaping physical reality. It has also highlighted for me the complications and importance of appropriate interactions between Native and non-native Americans. This is a personally important project that will be relevant to the people struggling to end coal mining in Black Mesa. Aside from that, I hope the integration of my research and experiences will shed some light on lessons of power and resilience, cultural survival, the politics of storytelling, the complicated interactions between white and Native cultures, and understanding land use decisions from Navajo country.

Honors College Research Project




© Copyright 2015 Caitlin A. Piserchia