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UCB DECAL Fall '11

2010 UCB New Years Trip PDF Print E-mail

When: Monday, January 4 - Friday, January 8, 2010

We had never experienced this side of the reservation before.  Sure, some of us had been to the Navajo Nation before--but exclusively to the eastern sides. This trip would prove itself a new experience for all.  Our goals for this particular trip were fairly simple.  First, we were to become acquainted with the needs of this new area by working with Forgotten People.  Forgotten People is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to promoting the needs of the residents in the Western Agency of the Navajo Nation. Also, we were planning to help with building projects that needed to be done. This was the first trip in which we didn’t stay at a church or a school, but in a private residence.  More specifically, we stayed in a hogan on private property.

A hogan is a traditional Navajo structure used primarily for ceremonies and rituals. It is a small, hexagonal building with a dirt floor and a wood stove for warmth. Upon arriving at Debbie Yazzie’s house we were all given Navajo protection beads and welcomed warmly by a dinner of traditional Navajo food. The next day we attended a weatherization training to get informed of the type of work that Project Pueblo will be doing during our next trip. During this training, our group learned about the politics that surround this weatherization program.

Back in 1966, the U.S. government declared a “freeze” on a 1.6 million acre section of Navajo land. This freeze was in response to a land dispute between the Navajo and the neighboring Hopi tribes (although in full disclosure, many Navajos believe that the federal government manufactured the dispute in order to impose such a freeze). This freeze, known infamously as the Bennett Freeze (after Commissioner of Indian Affairs Robert Bennett), forbade the Navajo from building any sort of improvements on their homes or any type of infrastructure such as roads or electricity.

As a result, many Navajos live in inhabitable houses that are not properly insulated against the often-blistering winter snowstorms.   Nor are these homes reinforced to withstand fierce desert sand storms. Most of the families here live in these one room houses with no electricity and no running water—in fact only 3 percent of the families in these communities have electricity and only 10 percent have running water (HR5168, 2004).  To make matters a lot worse, many live in areas in which the water from nearby springs (which is their only source of drinking water) is contaminated with arsenic and uranium due to mines that were never properly sealed. Thankfully, some action has already been taken.

Last year in May, President Obama lifted the Federal Freeze on the land, opening the doors for construction and improvements on an area that has seen none for the past 43 years. Also, the US EPA and the Navajo EPA have been providing clean water via large water trucks that haul water to these remote communities. But there is still a lot more to be done. During our next Project Pueblo trip, we will be assisting in the weatherization and improvement of numerous homes in the former Bennett Freeze area. We encourage anyone who wants to be on the forefront of this historic project (historic in that it is the first sign of improvements in this area in 43 years) to please contact the Directors of the various Chapters and join Project Pueblo today by filling out the Membership Form and a Trip Application. 

This winter trip was a satisfying success and thanks to our partnership with Forgotten People, Project Pueblo gets first priority on assisting in the new weatherization projects.  While we were there, we built forgotten people a website that was very necessary in order to promote their work to the rest of the world and increase their effectiveness.

We would encourage you to visit this new website for Forgotten People at www.forgottennavajopeople.org.

We also assisted in a handful of small but helpful building projects.  So once again, if you want to help people that have been forgotten for 43 long years, please consider going on this next trip were we will be weatherizing homes and making life a little easier for the people of the Western reservation.  To reserve your spot for an upcoming trip, please click on our Trip Application on this website.  Hurry—spots are filling up quickly! 

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