Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology

Navajo Corn Field in Teesto "Dry Land Farming"

 The Native people of the Southwest have been practicing dry land farming. This method has evolved for over thousands of years. The knowledge is still alive and people still farm on lands that receive less then then inches of rain a year.


Ya'at'eeh (Greetings) My name is Roberto Nutlouis. I am a Dineh (Navajo) from the community of Pinon AZ. My clans are Bitter Water, born for Big Water.  I am an undergraduate senior here at NAU, pursing my degree in Applied Indigenous Studies. My area of emphasis is Traditional Knowledge

It is extremely important to study human impacts on the Colorado Plateau because this area holds the Nations highest cultural and biological diversity. Industrial and corporate development threatens these unique diversity. By understanding the human impact, it will help determine which path society will  take for future development. In assessing these impact, it must also take into account the Indigenous Peoples who have lived in these areas for thousands of years.

My research will include how to practice sustainable agriculture on the Colorado Plateau by using traditional Native knowledge along with premaculture techniques.

Permaculture is defined as "designing ecological human habitats and food production systems. It is a land use and community building movement which strives for the harmonious integration of human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities. The focus is not on these elements themselves, but rather on the relationships created among them by the way we place them in the landscape. This synergy is further enhanced by mimicking patterns found in nature. Permaculture adopts techniques and principles from ecology, appropriate technology, sustainable agriculture, and the wisdom of indigenous peoples. The ethical basis of permaculture rests upon care of the earth-maintaining a system in which all life can thrive. This includes human access to resources and provisions, but not the accumulation of wealth, power, or land beyond their needs" (http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/perma.html)

I will conduct my experiment  in my community and actually design a working permaculture system. I will address these issues:

  1. Water management
  2. Erosion control
  3. Use of  manure 
  4. Encouraging wild edible plants to grow in the field
  5. Use of companion planting (Three Sisters: Corn, bean and Squash)

My research question will be: "How to develop alternative agriculture systems that honors the land and it people through a holistic approach/"    

This land has its limits and its resources must be utilized in a way that does not jeopardize the well being of the future generations. The exploitations and plunder of these resources have contributed to the degradations of both cultural and biological diversity of the Colorado Plateau. If humanity plans to stay another thousands of years, it must begin to acknowledge and respect  the Indigenous Peoples. They have the knowledge to sustainable future.


The traditional approach to farming brings whole family and clan together. It serves as one of the social foundation for the Dineh people.

Here, a Dine family prepares a white corn meal known as 'Alkaad' to honor the young girl who has reached her women hood. This Kinaalda ceremony is one of the many ceremonies that uses different types of corn as a sacred sacraments.  

  "Kinaalda Blessing"

"Summer Monsoon Flood"

Water is an important and sacred element for all life. This even more so in the arid southwest. Traditional Native knowledge shows how to collect these precious water and maximize its use. 

Farmers strategically placed their fields in flood plains to capture the runoffs after summer rain storms.

This is me in South Africa. I went with a delegation of Indigenous Youth to attend the UN's World Summit on Sustainable Development.