Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day from the members of AFT Academics!

Dr. Andrew Curley, a Diné scholar whose research focuses on indigenous geography, land, resources, energy, water, and tribal sovereignty, describes an important Navajo ethic, t’áá hwó ají t’éego, as “an expression of hard work and the maintenance of one’s livelihood on ancestral lands.”  In Dr. Curley’s study of Navajo coal workers, t’áá hwó ají t’éego is translated variously as,  “It’s up to you;”  “If you want to succeed, it has to be you;” and, “Only you determine the state of your being.” Although capitalist institutions were not the original context for this ethic, Dr. Curley also notes the collective structure of a worker’s union puts t’áá hwó ají t’éego into practice, translating this ethic into political mobilization. 1

As a union—a group of workers acting and speaking collectively—we have the power to take actions in our workplaces and lives, to improve our futures together. Collectively, we are responsible for our actions. Only we determine the state of our being.

As a union, AFT Academics exists to uplift workers collectively. We realize that progress towards a just future depends upon building power, and that power is built through solidarity.

We also recognize that standing in solidarity with our Native American colleagues means learning about, recognizing, and understanding the ways in which our regions, workplaces, and organizations have been shaped by settler colonialism, and moving organized labor forward in ways that don’t repeat those cycles of violence.

Of course, this isn’t a conversation that should be limited to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but we believe that today is a great time to start! We have gathered the following resources to help you begin.

1.   Andrew Curley (2019) T’áá hwó ají t’éego and the Moral Economy of Navajo Coal Workers, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 109:1, 71-86, DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2018.1488576.


“The Morrill Act worked by turning land expropriated from tribal nations into seed money for higher education. In all, the act redistributed nearly 11 million acres — an area larger than Massachusetts and Connecticut combined.” 

Land Grab Universities

“Of all full-time faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions in fall 2017…Those who were American Indian/Alaska Native and those who were of Two or more races each made up 1 percent or less of full-time faculty.”

Race/Ethnicity of College Faculty

Podcasts / Videos / Movies


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