OLIJATO-MONUMENT VALLEY — The Navajo Nation is taking steps to heal and learn from the devastating impacts of COVID-19.
A brand new community center called "Tse Bii Ndzisgaii Community Center" opened its doors on Monday in Monument Valley — a first-of-its-kind center catering to children and adults.
The center "will serve as an innovation hub that will give flight to the rich, natural social and small business entrepreneurship that has always existed in our communities but has long lacked adequate support and resources to flourish," officials said.
The pandemic exacerbated some of the challenges people face on the Navajo Nation, including limited access to basic necessities such as food, running water, electricity and internet service.
Shandiin Herrera, director of the Tse Bii Ndzisgaii Community Center, grew up in Monument Valley. The recent Duke graduate returned home to spearhead COVID-19 relief efforts for her people as part of a fellowship. The next step is creating a community center.
People can utilize a business center, shared workspace, a conference room, classroom space and a library.
"It is a big challenge to live in a place like Monument Valley. As beautiful as it is, it comes with many, many different challenges," Herrera said. "But in that regard, we've seen how innovative and talented and resilient our people are and we want to uplift that and promote that through our communities center."
There will be Navajo language and food sovereignty classes, as well as financial workshops for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
By early next year, there are plans to include a coffee shop, a trading post to sell work from local artists and a community garden.
Herrera said they plan to use this model to build community centers across Navajo Nation.