WWF Board member Clara Pratte on finding energy in nature

Clara Pratte, in traditional dress, standing in front of mountains

Clara Pratte was raised on the Navajo Nation, and her earliest memories of nature are being outside at her grandmother’s house there—“sitting under the pine trees with my aunts and my grandma, picking up the little pinyons (pine nuts) that had fallen and harvesting wild carrots and onions.”

Her grandmother taught her that when they took something from the ground—vegetables, herbs, flowers—they had to replenish or recultivate the resource. “And we only took what we needed—just enough to sustain us,” Pratte says. “We always had a sense of how important it was to take care of the environment and use natural resources responsibly. That was something we learned at a very young age.”

This belief system informed Pratte’s views not only about nature, but also about economic development and energy development, areas of interest she would end up pursuing professionally: “How do we balance the need for development without upsetting ecosystems? And how do we do it in a more sustainable and mindful way?”

Pratte has remained committed to finding that balance for her community. She has served as the chief of staff for the Navajo Nation and as executive director of the Navajo Nation’s Washington, DC, office, among other professional achievements, focusing on poverty alleviation, economic empowerment, and advancing tribal sovereignty.

“I love that we’re having cross-border dialogues on engaging Indigenous communities in a thoughtful, culturally appropriate way.”

Clara Pratte
WWF Board Member

Today, she is on the leadership team at Navajo Power, a company she cofounded to develop utility-scale clean-energy solutions that benefit the environment and create positive economic change for tribal nations. “Whether it’s solar, wind, or gas, our goal is to bring sustainable power to tribal people on a broader scale—not only for their homes, but also for larger community and business needs,” says Pratte. “The overall bottom line for me is how can we improve the day-to-day life of the average tribal person on the Navajo Nation, or wherever we may be working?”

Pratte explains that historically, the people most impacted by energy development on tribal lands didn’t see the level of value or benefits that they should have. “Today, we’re very focused on local communities,” she says. “We want to make sure that they benefit first in all places where we’re putting pylons in the ground or solar panels up. After all, they’re the farmers and ranchers who have to leave their land fallow for us to do this work.”

Pratte is proud that Navajo Power’s clean-energy work is generating interest from other Indigenous and First Nation groups in Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere. “I love that we’re having cross-border dialogues on engaging Indigenous communities in a thoughtful, culturally appropriate way, making sure that benefits are felt first and foremost at the grassroots level.”

And she keeps her childhood experience of being immersed in nature with her, always. “When I think about conservation, it’s not just about the conservation of land. It’s also about survival as a people, and how happy nature and people are when they’re thriving together.”

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