Clara Pratte Wins Environmental Genius Award for Innovators Under 40

Pratte reacts to the December 16th announcement of her selection as the 2020 winner of the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award. (UCLA)

The Tribal engagement leader for President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign, Clara Pratte (Navajo) has won the 2020 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

The prize for the annual award is $100,000, funded through a $20 million gift to UCLA from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation. For the environmental field, it is the first honor specifically for innovators under the age of 40. 

The founder of Strongbow Strategies and an advocate for Tribal economic development and sovereignty, Pratte was honored with our Native Disruptor of the Year Award, announced at the Native Business Virtual Summit in November 2020, and a Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneur in May 2019. Strongbow has assisted Tribal and government clients with business and technical issues, such as cyber security support and emergency management, since 2013. 

The UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability celebrated on Twitter: “Congratulations to Clara Pratte @cjlpratte who just won the 2020 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award! She combats systemic racism & advocates green infrastructure for the Navajo Nation.” (UCLA)

A member of the Navajo Nation, Pratte is also part of the leadership team of Navajo Power, a public benefit corporation that transitions Tribal lands from extractive energy industries such as coal to large-scale renewable energy.

“We create large-scale utility projects, and then we take profits and revenue from those projects and reinvest in the community,” Pratte told UCLA of Navajo Power. “We replace lost revenue from the closing of coal mines and coal plants and provide a capital infusion to communities to shift to a renewable, new energy economy.” 

Navajo Power reinvests its profits in the community — reimbursing individuals for the use of their land and ensuring each home has electricity and water.

“I was born and raised in the Navajo community with no water or electricity, thinking that the only way we could survive is to join the capitalist community we’re part of,” Pratte told David Colgan at UCLA. “We destigmatize and demystify what it’s like to work on Tribal lands.”

A panel of four distinguished judges from the XPrize Foundation, Los Angeles City Council, Earthrise Alliance and worldwide sustainability at Amazon chose Pratte as the award winner from among 20 candidates, all nominated by a global group of environmental leaders. The two finalists along with Pratte included Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, a Marshallese poet and climate activist who performed at the United Nations Climate Summit, and Leah Penniman, who co-founded a community farm centered on Black and Indigenous people that aims to end racism and injustice in the food system. 

Clara Pratte, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner and Leah Penniman were selected from a pool of 21 candidates to move on to the final round of judging for the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award, ultimately awarded to Ms. Pratte. So honored and humbled to be selected. “We are all winners. Love and gratitude to fellow finalists @soulfirefarm and @kathykijiner,” Pratte posted on Twitter. (Graphic by Ashley Kruythoff/UCLA)