Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dine'tah: An Appeal



Five years ago, I knew very little about the Navajo people (Dine') and the vast and beautiful Navajoland (Dine'tah). My education on these matters is still a work in progress, but in these past 5 years I have come to have a great respect and love for the Navajo. I find their history fascinating. I admire their triumphs (Navajo art, in particular, is among the most creative and beautiful of that of any culture in the world). I grieve over their challenges. I am anything but a "bleeding heart," but I am ashamed of the way earlier Americans treated the Navajo and other native peoples.


After five years of living close to the Navajo Nation reservation, I have witnessed firsthand the foolish (and, I will add, racist) policy of generations past of rounding up native peoples and driving them to "reservations." Often, our government placed these peoples on lands that were the poorest and most remote. No walls were built, but once the reservation boundaries were determined (and changed many times, by the way, by the bureaucrats in Washington), little effort was made to teach the indians new skills, or to provide modern infrastructure that would make assimilating into American culture easier. There were some basic and noble efforts made, to be sure, but these were few and far between. Most cruel of all, perhaps, our government brought in alcohol to "pacify" the indians and to quell dissension and revolts. Oh, what great tragedy alcohol has brought to the reservations.


The past cannot be undone, but the present and future can be better, much better. As I live and work among the Navajo, I see a people who love life, who are bright and industrious, who are honest and good-natured. I see a people who, when given half a chance, can excel and do great things. I continually pray that the resources and opportunities needed for continued and accelerated advancement of the Navajo will come. Share this prayer with me.


Of course, my primary interest here is with the children of the Navajo nation, particularly those children who are in crisis, whose families are beyond dysfunction and who are in great need. We at the Manuelito Navajo Children's Home are striving to help these children and families. We need partners in our ministry to enable us to extend our reach and to take more children into our care. Will you help us? Please make a contribution to our cause today.


As you consider this plea, let me share with you some statistics that describe, in some small measure, life on the Navajo reservation:
  • There is 58% unemployment on the Navajo reservation
  • Annual per capita income is around $7,300 (try feeding and housing a family on $7,300 a year!)
  • 32% of house lack plumbing
  • 20% of houses lack electricity
  • 50% of children drop out of school
  • Fewer than 7% of adult Navajos have college degrees
  • 90% of the population is impacted by alcoholism (either personally or through a close family member)
  • The median lifespan among men living on the reservation is 46 years (read this sentence again! . . . that's over 30 years shorter than in the wider American society!)
  • 20% of families are intact; 80% of families are fractured!