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  • Matt Tucker

Climate Change Action Hero: Nicole Horseherder

Updated: Apr 30

Executive Director, Tó Nizhóní Ání

Nicole Horseherder standing outside with natural prairie land and road in background

photo: Randall Hyman

When Nicole Horseherder came to climate change action in a unique way. When she returned to the reservation she grew up on after college, she learned that nearby coal processing plants were draining the Navajo Nation aquifer to the tune of 4 million gallons per day. This is the same aquifer that members of the Navajo tribe relied on for their drinking water.

To combat this injustice, Nicole co-founded the non-profit Tó Nizhóní Ání (TNA) which translations to "Sacred Water Speaks" dedicated to environmental justice and community empowerment. Since then the coal mining operations have been shut down, which also resulted in the shutdown of the Navajo Generating Station which before its decommissioning was the largest coal fired power plant west of the Rockies. This has resulted in improved air quality and the preservation of the aquifer that the Navajo people rely on. Today, instead of coal mines and coal fired power plants, the Navajo Nation is home to 3 large utility scale solar farms.

TNA under Nicole's leadership is now focusing on cleaning up the mess left behind by the mines and the power plant to restore the health of the land and its people. Going forward, Nicole and TNA will continue to put their energies into preserving the streams, rivers, aquifers and other natural resources her community depends on. The kind of indigenous advocacy that Nicole has spearheaded in Arizona can serve as a model for indigenous people and other front line communities leading the way on climate action and environmental justice.

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