portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

health | indigenous issues

Cascadia Diplomatic Report from Navajo Nation: Most depressing place on earth-

Most depressing place on earth not a 'place'; but a state of mind. Where the very idea of happiness or even -life- itself is simply a dream. Conquered long ago the minds enslave themsleves.
I have recently visted Navajo Nation in hopes of offering my eduction, hard work, or joy to a place my own blood can be quickly traced back to. I have been very deeply saddend by what I've seen and it's enough to make even the most ardent advocate for social justice want to throw their hands up and just cry.

In a land where theoreticly you have everything you could want to live the hope for life is taken for granted. A place where no one is forced to pay rent to simply live. Food can be grown freely and water comes bubbling up from the ground, people see nothing; and I see rampant methamphetamine use, dispair, and suicide rates among my own age group almost incalculatable.

The enviromental destruction is almost beyond description. Garbage litters every square foot of visable land- perhaps an average of 4-6 pieces of trash per sq. ft. Which is not limited to dog food bags, candy wrappers, and disintigrated styrafom cups; to say the least is horrendously deppressing. It includes in nearly every yard, at least 1-3 open dumpsites of hazardous waste as well. Car batteries, motor oil, anti-freeze, openely discarded meth waste.

The air smells a combination of burning PVC or meth or both- (I love the smell of POB's in the morning).

There would only seem to be a public perception problem to the many long-term health dangers associated with this unconfined hazardous waste. I called the EPA and was talked to with serious contempt for inquiring to the 'state' of the environmental protections here. Technicly there is trash pickup. Technicly there are fines for open dumping.. technicly.

The EPA estimated approx. between 307-402 open dumpsites scattered througout a land that really looks just like the beautiful grand canyon. And no one really seems to care which is the depressing thing of it.

Everyone wants to "get off" the Rez to live a better life doing "g" they call meth on the streets of southern LA. WTF? Life is what you make of it and TV reality seems to permeate the thoughts here; As "The O.C." is thought of as reality.

I have to go, the Library only allows a few minuetes on the computers... I tried... the government says they want sustainable folks to come and improve the life here. There is an open uranium tilling site a few blocks from the high schools. One inept governemnt official said the US Federal government is doing a scientific study to determine if the US Federal Government opened the tilling site and is responsible for the insane health effects. (good luck)

Maybe "a casino" they say? "and A four lane highway", YEAH, that's what they really need.

I'm sorry, I tried! You can lead a horse to water........

You know, don't take this the wrong way.... but low income americans are constantly disparaged for being .. "white trash"... a catagory I might easily fall into.. but at least we have culture of some kind. This is just sad, no one cares... call (928-871-6000) for information on getting involved with the navajo nation government; they say they want help with development.
where were you? 01.Feb.2006 11:38


My ex-boyfriend's sister is a doctor in Gallup and I visited them out there. That town used to lead the nation in alcohol arrests in the 80s, and they have a hairspray abuse problem. The thing is, I've heard or read from others that the Navajos/Hopis and others in the 4 corners area actually possess a much stronger sense of intact culture than other reservations. If you were to overlay a geographical map of weather extremes - such as either very low or high rainfall, or low or high temperatures - this would correlate with where reservations are placed in the desert southwest, or the rainforest of the Olympic peninsula etc,- and this is where tribes were least decimated. It also presents obvious difficulties for people living there now who aren't able to continue traditional economic activities and need to take up United States modern commerce. Among reservations within the 48 states, there have to be more Hopis/Navajos who can speak there language than anywhere else, and many people still can herd sheep and live on the land making a living off of art (where they are typically paid far less than the merchant is able to sell items for in the cities).
Many people's water wells aren't working as well as 20 years ago when the water table was higher, or they never were able to pump water, so many people have to go into Gallup to take showers and fill water tanks.

Please check out this site and help 01.Feb.2006 14:50


lead a horse to water? 02.Feb.2006 11:35


As a practicing/learning Dine' traditionalist i am very appalled by the picture that the author paints of the Navajo Nation. While "Oh boy" may be coming from a place of genuine desire to offer support and re-connect with his/her roots(?), there is a clear lack of understanding of cultural dynamics, colonization, racism and privilege in this very narrow observation. Many times we see people coming to try to "save the indian" and become disillusioned by the harsh realities of a culture still being impacted by fierce colonization.

Your writing holds a lot of generalizations: "the hope for life is taken for granted"
Who are you to say that this is really the case for everyone? Where were you?
"Food can be grown freely and water comes bubbling up from the ground", This doesn't sound like the areas i know. On Black Mesa for instance, Peabody Coal has been depleting the N-Aquifer for its coal slurry line. You say food can be grown freely, yet what basis do you have for this when you also state: "Garbage litters every square foot of visable land".
Garbage is an issue on certain parts of the rez, water isnt as much of an issue on certain parts of the rez, again i really wonder where you were.
"Everyone wants to "get off" the Rez...", "As "The O.C." is thought of as reality". Who were you hanging out with? While there may be a certain segment of our population, which is around 250,000, that fits the stereotypes youre trying to place them into, there are so many more conscious and dignified people who are connected to their roots and taking action. This unfortunately must have been buried beneath all the garbage that "Oh boy" spent time looking at but not bothering to help pick-up.

"it's enough to make even the most ardent advocate for social justice want to throw their hands up"
So what does this say for the people that have to live in what you give up on?
We dont have the privilege to throw up our hands and walk away, we have to face the enviro/social justice issues because its our life, we just cant go from community to community or protest to protest looking how we can best apply our hard work and then give up when it becomes too hard.

"white trash" "...at least we have culture of some kind" - this is one of the most racist statements ive heard, and i work in a border town that has serious race relation issues.

While there are numerous issues affecting our people, many of which we perpetuate ourselves, there are also individuals and groups that remain connected to our culture and land in a harmonious way.
Hopefully the next time you come to Dine' Tah (maybe youre still there) you can connect with some of these groups:
www.savethepeaks.org - also check out the inspiring Youth of the Peaks! www.savethepeaks.org/youth
(working to protect one of the four sacred mountains from ski area development and snowmaking with wastewater)
(protecting Black Mesa water and people from Peabody Coal)
(Helping to stop forced relocation of traditional elders and prevent additional impacts from tribal councils, Peabody and more)
(Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment)
(Uranium issues)
(check out the permaculture projects and more under the bioregional lifeways link)

Theres also the Dine' Bidziil Coalition and so many more.
Just last year the Navajo Nation passed a law to ban any future uranium mining activities within its borders.

Also, check out the award winning documentary "G Methamphetamine on the Navajo Nation" on the Meth issue at www.sheepheadfilms.com. Theres also some really conscious music like www.4went.com (hip hop, they are also organizing a tour to educate ppl about meth abuse), www.blackfire.net (punk influenced politically driven) and so much more...


Maybe 03.Feb.2006 02:14


He visited a different part of the rez from you.

You would make more friends if you corrected his errors without humiliating him.

not trying to make friends 10.Feb.2006 23:44


Well, im not trying to make friends, i just want to inform others that this narrow view of the Dineh Nation isnt all there is.
Humiliate? Well, privilege seems to do a good job at humiliating itself.
Have a nice day.

What is? 25.Feb.2006 00:40


To the author of the first post in this thread:

There is poverty and there is poverty. There is apathy and there is apathy.

How about the poverty of being unable to imagine living without luxuries obtained by stepping on or shoving out someone else? You see that poverty every day in Portland. Heck, to a certain extent I live it. I have done my best so far but have not yet gone against the current enough to kick it entirely. Dump sites notwithstanding, how much of an ecological footprint did the people on the rez have compared to the people in the city? The computer I'm typing this on could easily have made enough toxic waste to fill a good sized dump spot, but like other white city dwellers I don't get many chances to get the fact shoved in my face. It's someone else in another country that gets to deal. Or on the rez.

How about the apathy of a person saying "I tried" when their trying was a heartbeat only? Apathy is where despair is. I once worked at a public school, as a teacher. I tried to get to know the kids but partially out of missing a place 3,000 miles away and partially out of discouragement with my lack of progress compared to the factory-like system, I quit. Between the day I made my decision and the day I let the kids know they'd decided to trust me. "Didn't you know it would take us at least this long to warm up to you?" one of my favorite kids asked, obviously hurting that I hadn't had the faith. And those kids had no history of treaty violations or attempted genocide with me or people like me.

I don't know about you, but I'm still recovering from/ partially living a life where the concept of shoving the cost for what I wanted onto someone else was so everywhere that it was invisible. I thank all those who have helped me see the way out, and are helping me still - sometimes by kindness, and sometimes by their direct refusal to put up with what I'm saying or doing.

Can you empathize with the concerns that have been raised so far, by others? Can you listen well enough that they'll agree that they've been heard as they'd like to be heard?

All frustration and apathy is born of pain and despair. All pain and despair is born of the capacity to care and act. It seems you felt some frustration and despair. May your - and my- capacity for connection, listening, patience, and action become an ever deepening reality.


threats to the nation 11.Apr.2006 16:35

dine citizen

The area you speak about is an ancient nation- redefined as a reservation
for purposes of exploitation. every threat to this area comes from the
greed and ignorance of the USAINC and its henchman. Trash comes from 40-50 mph winds which blow twice a week (worse this decade form global warming)
poison in the earth and sky from several extremely dirty coal plants
and uranium mining for more chernobyls and uranium tipped bullets to kill innocents in mesopotamia. I am "white" but of brown skin color and live
here in the great Dine nation. You had a bad trip and have no clue about the wonders of this place and the people who "walk in bueaty"- come back again sometime and leave your worthless opinions behind.