About 8 hours away from Southern California, there is an area in Arizona that has been affected by something called the “Bennett Freeze.” For more than 40 years, restrictions for residents in this area have been barred from making improvements and repairs to their homes and property as well as infrastructure (such as roads or electricity) to their community. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Robert Bennett, placed the “freeze” in 1966 as a temporary effort to prevent either the Navajo Nation or the Hopi Tribe from taking advantage of one another while the Navajo- Hopi land dispute was being settled. Furthermore, residents there have suffered from drinking contaminated water due to uranium, arsenic and bacteria contamination in their water supplies for decades. The Bennett Freeze covers a 1.5 million acre area— which is larger than the state of Delaware—and it is located in the Western region of the Navajo Nation.
The freeze was finally lifted last year by the Obama administration in 2009, but unfortunately only 3% of the families there have electricity, less than 10% of the families have running water or plumbing, and only 24% of the houses in the area are habitable. For the last 40 years, Navajo families residing in the Bennett Freeze area lived under an oppressive and unjust law that has essentially made poverty mandatory. This area is known to be the most poverty-stricken area of the Navajo Nation, and one of the most poverty-stricken areas located in the United States.
Families in the Bennett Freeze area lack electricity as power lines across this area carry energy from the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz., south to Phoenix and west to Los Angeles. Furthermore, the lack of electricity has led to a number of health problems, including an epidemic of upper respiratory problems due to badly ventilated stoves. And life without electricity meant that sick people (especially diabetics) were unable to refrigerate their medicines and many have died as a result.
Forgotten People is a non-profit community-based organization that is dedicated to the rebuilding of the communities of the Bennett Freeze area as well as the Dine’ (Navajo) people who live in the Navajo Nation. Forgotten People’s mission is to help the Dine’ people have access to safe drinking water, sanitation, low-cost housing, solar electrification, sustainable agriculture, and economic development. FP focuses on community wide identification of needs and then works with each community to engage them to solve their problems. FP’s methodology teaches people to change from reactive to proactive to take control of their destiny. We met Forgotten People during Project Pueblo’s 2nd Summer 2009 Research Trip and have been thoroughly impressed with their organization’s dedication to serving the people of the Navajo Nation.
You can find out more info about Forgotten People on the following website, which was designed and created by Project Pueblo.
We will be working with Forgotten People in upcoming service trips to take part in weatherization and safe drinking water projects. In the weatherization projects, we will help rebuild the dilapidated homes that have suffered from 44 years of abandonment to help provide families with adequate shelter from often below-freezing temperatures. Also, we will be working with this group to help provide Safe Drinking Water systems to allow families to have safe drinking water.
We would encourage you to take part in one of Project Pueblo’s service trips, and we hope that in doing so, not only will you have the potential to make a difference in someone else’s life, but that your life will be changed for the better as well. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and we believe that everyone in the United States (and in the world) should have access to basic needs such as water, food, shelter and clothing. We would like to invite you to be a part of the solution to this problem.
For further information by joining our email list, join Project Pueblo in just a few minutes by clicking on the “Member Form” link below.
To register for upcoming trips to help rebuild and to provide safe drinking water to the Navajo people, please click on our Trip Application today!
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