Poverty on the Navajo Nation

In a previous post, I briefly discussed the “third world nation” status of the Navajo Nation (NN). This was primarily due to the poverty issues they face.  Yet the NN received millions of federal and state funds – enough to distribute non-trivial monthly checks to each family living on the “Rez.”  On the other hand, citizens of the Navajo Nation:
  • do not pay federal or state taxes.
  • do not pay to register and license their vehicles
  • do not pay real estate taxes
  • rarely have house payments
  • never have to pay for land, since no one owns the land (yet every family has an allotment of land)
  • rarely have credit cards, so their debt load is minimal, usually a vehicle payment
  • receive free medical, dental, and eye care
  • much of their education is paid for by the tribe via workforce development or other social agencies.

How can one explain the ironies of monthly checks, incredible tax breaks and other government provision, and persistent poverty?  Government Dependency is an insidious thing.

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. When I lived in Arizona I knew a lot of people who had grown up on the Navajo Nation rez. Also I knew the son of one of the tribal government officials and sons and daughters of other higher-ups in the tribe. They really felt that many of the problems with poverty had to do with the lack of direct capital investment. It would have been better, from their point of view, to have the government invest money in infrastructure, businesses, small business loans, and so forth. This might sound like they were lobbying for their own benefit, since the managers and ‘owners’ of these businesses are not the tribe so much as individual tribal members, and often tribal government officials. But that wasn’t their point. Really they wanted to see more corporate involvement. This may sound ridiculous considering the history of privatization in general, and the track record of the BIA. But thinking in terms of getting capital to flow to an area without this kind of corporate interest today is unrealistic and rather wishy washy. I am quite progressive, some would say radical, about social programs, anti-consumerism and anti-corporatism even, but I agree with their assessment. The real problems on the rez, on any rez, is that there isn’t any real capital. It all comes with governmental (whether tribal or federal) strings. And no one is interested in dealing with that in the corporate world, at least, not outside the most ruthless and exploitative corporations. I think this is an example of liberalism gone awry, good intentions which have encouraged exactly what they were meant to prevent.
    TOG

  2. I have Just got back from the res. and i must say the people are amazing and god is doing some thing mighty there . from mo i live i when to the res for a missions trip with my church it was my first mission and it was amazing . the sad thing is that it is like walking in to a third world country right in to the USA . the Navajo are a great people . but its just not right to hear about the insest and the rape. its wrong to an eights degree!!!! alcohol has been compleatly ileagle and its not allowed so the people drink hair spray. well this is just a little of what i experienced . the Navajo will always be in my prayers..

  3. Try living on the reservation for a year before you judge how the system works. Sure lots of money comes from the goverment to the tribes and guess what? The money trickles from the top down to pay the goverment officials, senior managements, buildings and offices, overheads, navajo officials, countless other services that sometimes are even hard to understand. So, everyone makes money but mostly the upper crust. Things that seem free are not, for example, land alotted to some people are located in the most desolate and unproductive areas. drilling for water are quite impossible because of access. The land itself is unforgiving and will not yield in some areas.
    There are so many restrictions both goverment and tribal. Then there are state and county regulations for utilities and housing. Change is at a snails pace. Free education is same as a public education in the cities. By the way, I know many navajo students are now doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, own businesses, Social services work, etc. The u.s. goverment has so much say in what is happening in and on the reservation and I believe they created this problem of dependency In nearly all aspect of reservation life and the entire nation. Laws drawn and mindset from the 1800 are a problem today. The top thirteen inches of soil belongs to the navajos and the entire bottom belongs to the u.s. goverment so, all resources are dictated and controlled by the goverment and thats why congress allows huge companies to drill, digs and siphon all minerals, gas, coal, uraninum, timber and water to other parts of the country for their use. I remember years ago, another country wanted to build a plant on the reservation but, faced too many obstacles and gave up. So, you see it is not that easy to make changes when you are corraled in. My solution is to really work together to get rid of the leaders who will not do their job in making changes for a productive future in navajo land then, expect every navajo to step up to the plate. I was raised on the reservation amidst alcholism, poverty, sleeping on a dirt floor, with hardly any food and still amazed at how I survived and I am not the only one so, you see changes are possible.

    • I did, Virginia, live there for a year. I like your solution, and I really believe that changes are possible. The Navajo are an amazing people!

    • I agree with most of what you said and I did live on the rez for almost 5 years as a kid so I have personally witnessed it. However, I disagree with your statement about the schools being like inner city schools. While I attended Ganado Primary, Elementary, and Middle schools I had access to some of the best programs and facilities I have ever seen in a school (even comparable to state of the art facilities at NAU). The schools and teachers are great and I really don’t think they should be compared to the school system of inner cities or even the nearby FUSD (Flagstaff) which is constantly cutting programs and utilizing the most out dated and decrepit facilities.

      • Kyle, after re-reading the blog and comments, I do not find a comment about the public schools being like inner city schools. Where did you see that?

  4. My wife and I just got home from driving through the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. It was pretty depressing and it looks to us that they need to leave the reservation and mix with the masses and they would be better off. I have a feeling that a lot of good intentions have made conditions worse. It’s a real sin to create the dependency the government has created. It’s crlppling.

  5. So, how long did you live on the Navajo Nation?

    • Chuck, that is a moot point, and you know it. You refuse to admit that your viewpoint is biased garbage and you use ANY excuse to refuse to debate your warped beliefs and ideas about the Dineh or anyone else. This commenter did not have to live on the reservation to know that the Dineh pay taxes like all other Americans.

      • I’m happy that, at least, you tell your name now, rather than remaining anonymous. Living on the Navajo Nation is not a moot point. If you have never lived on the Navajo Nation, your knowledge is limited. I lived there and have many Dineh friends. Yes, of course, they do pay some taxes, but they don’t pay the same ones people in the borderlands pay. That wasn’t the point of the blog. Did you get the point?

  6. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article.
    I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read
    more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return.

  7. What’s up friends, its great paragraph on the topic of teachingand entirely defined, keep it up all the time.

  8. We Navajo People are a product of their making. We did not choose to live like a contemporary citizen in this society. If someone WANTS to take a look at a priceless memory, take a look down memory lane of the NAVAJO NATION.


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