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Trico helps bring power to the Navajo Nation

August 3, 2023

Concern for Community and Cooperation Among Cooperatives are two of seven principles that cooperatives like Trico pursue. In June, Trico employees Bryan English, Joe Tsethlikai, Tyler Hornung and Conor Garcia spent a week in Chinle, Ariz. – near Canyon de Chelly National Monument – to bring power to the community as part of the Light Up Navajo program.

Trico is the first cooperative in the state of Arizona to participate in the mutual-aid program that began in 2019 to extend electricity to homes without power. According to the American Public Power Association, of the approximately 55,000 homes on the Navajo Nation, nearly 14,000 still do not have electricity. They represent 75% of all U.S. households without power.

Tsethlikai, who is a descendant of the Zuni people, said it is unthinkable that in 2023 there are people in the United States without electricity.

“Being half-native, I’m glad I got the opportunity to help them,” he said. “They need all the help they can get. It’s going to be a long process. At the rate they’re going, it will take 30 years for everyone to get power. Until they have electricity, they don’t have access to basic necessities that we take for granted, such as water, ice to keep their food cold, telephones, internet, or indoor plumbing.”

The working conditions in Chinle weren’t great. The temperature was in the 90s. The wind was 40-50 miles per hour. The elevation is around 7,000 feet.

“It was a wonderful experience,” said Tsethlikai, a Journeyman Lineman at Trico for 16 years. “It was a lot of work, but it was rewarding. After meeting the people and seeing what a life-changing experience it is for them, it was all worth it. It was an eye opener for me. My family on the (Zuni) reservation has electricity and water. It was sad, but I was happy to be there. I don’t look at it as charity. It’s the right thing to do.”

It was a great learning experience for Hornung and Garcia, who are apprentice linemen. All four men said they wished they could have done more. During their week in Chinle, they installed four meters. There was also a crew from Alabama working in another part of town.

“I hope more utilities continue to help,” said English, who has been a Journeyman Lineman at Trico for eight years. “It was a good experience. I wish we could have done more. Maybe next year we can stay longer.”