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No Fracking Way! NTU Student of the Year Studies Its Impact on the Navajo Nation

Jayvion Chee earned recognition as NTU’s Student of the Year for his work assessing the potential impacts fracking has on water resources.
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Jayvion Chee earned recognition as Navajo Technical University’s Student of the Year for his work on a geographic information technology (GIT) project that assessed the potential impacts hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has on water resources in San Juan County, New Mexico.

Fracking is a mining process that uses large amounts of water and high-risk chemicals to fracture the earth’s strata to release natural gas or oil. The process is effective for extracting resources, but it consumes a lot of water, and can potentially threaten water quality in the vicinity.

Using his knowledge from his AAS degree in GIT Chee started mapping natural gas fracking wells on his grandfather’s farmland in the San Juan region to better understand the potential risks. Chee found 87 undocumented wells in the San Juan region that could lead to adverse affects on the communities in the area—including his grandfather’s land.

“From the 1980s to 2003, fracking has resulted in up to 7,000 cases of soil and water contamination in the state of New Mexico, with 400 cases dealing with underground water contamination,” says a press release from NTU. “Such a threat would be detrimental to San Juan County, especially after facing contamination associated with the Gold King Mine spill of the Animas River last year.”

Courtesy Navajo Technical University

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Jayvion Chee is congratulated on being named Navajo Technical University’s Student of the Year at the American Indian College Fund’s Student of the Year Banquet on March 14, 2016 at the Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Chee has been presenting his findings at various conferences nationwide to raise awareness. His next stop is Lake Tahoe in Nevada with NM EPSCoR, where he will translate his research into developing a curriculum that could be taught to students across the nation. Once complete, Chee hopes to return home where he will give several presentations on his research at chapter houses throughout the Navajo Nation.

Long-term, Chee hopes to inspire others to pursue higher education. “I encourage young Natives to follow in my footsteps,” Chee said in the press release. “It’s very important.”

“Not a lot of us Native communities know hydraulic fracking occurs and so we need to raise awareness,” Chee continued. “I want to inform young Natives and elders of the community.”

Chee will graduate this spring with a degree in GIT, and though there is a need for GIT specialists, he wants to continue his education in NTU’s Bachelor of Science program in Environmental Science and Natural Resources.

“I never knew attending a tribal college would be beneficial to me,” said Chee, who had aspirations of attending a large university upon graduating from Window Rock High School in 2013. “I thank my mother for telling me to start at a smaller college.”