SHIPROCK — Tired of seeing plastic bags blowing in the wind and glass shards glittering in the sun, more than 1,000 Shiprock residents worked to clean up their town on Monday, Earth Day.

"What you see everyday in Shiprock is trash," said Dayna Beall, 17, a junior at Career Prep High School in Shiprock.

Beall and her classmates were among many students who helped with the community-wide effort, one that lasted most of the day.

Students and community members together painted murals over graffiti, collected litter from the sidewalks, and planted shrubs and trees near the chapter house.

"I've lived here all my life," said Martin Duncan, San Juan River Dineh Water Users Association superintendent. "It's always been like this."

No one seemed to know why Shiprock has struggled with its image for so long.

Some said it was because there were no taxes in place to pay the government to clean the area, and others said it was because people had to pay to deposit waste at the local dump. Most could not pinpoint one reason, and instead said it was a combination of factors.

"It's always someone else's problem," said Patrick Blackwater, a volunteer from Diné College. "I want to set an example. It's our responsibility to clean this all up."

By the day's end, volunteers planted about 25 trees and as many plants. They painted a handful of small murals and collected 160 cubic yards of trash.

In addition, they trimmed existing trees, removed rotting trees and also picked weeds.


"I'm hoping that everything now will change people's minds," said Joni Nofchissey, who helped coordinate the event with local chapter officials.

The chapter also worked with the city of Farmington, the Farmington Chamber of Commerce, and various businesses in the area to put the day together.

Many of them donated resources to help the volunteers.

"I think we made an impact," said Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie. "But we still have a lot of work to do.


Jenny Kane can be reached at; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter