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Nonfiction in response to Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
September 2018

A World Unseen

By Kelsey Cashman

Around the United States, there are 326 Native American reservations. One of these reservations is home to the Navajo tribe, also known as the code talkers that greatly contributed to the American efforts during World War II. Recruited by the Marine Corps in 1941, the Navajo code talkers sent and translated messages critical to battles, and their ability to keep a message secret often meant the difference between a win or a loss. These Navajo people were heroes, risking their lives to help America and the Allies win World War II. Flash forward to 2018, however, and the descendants of these war heroes are living in poverty, in conditions comparable to those of third-world countries.

Around 300,000 people live on the Navajo reservation that covers parts of Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. Despite the great number of people, unemployment of people in the reservation was seven times higher than anywhere else in the U.S. in 2005-2006. Very few Navajo graduate from high school, and even fewer from college. Also, because of insufficient housing, about 90,000 Navajo families are homeless or underhoused, and those that do have houses often live with several generations under one substandard roof. Navajo families are 67 times less likely to have running water or indoor plumbing, a basic amenity, than anybody else in the United States. In fact, according to the Navajo Water Project, 40% of Navajo families live without running water. Such a lack of industry is unheard of anywhere else in the United States and is worse than that of some third world countries.

The Navajo reservation also lacks adequate systems of healthcare, leading to much higher rates of diabetes, tuberculosis, and heart disease and a lifespan of only 72 years, four years less than that of the national average. The Navajo reservation is served by the centralized Indian Health Services. Though the hospital has good doctors and resources, it is also out of reach of most of the people in need. Often people live far away from the hospital, a distance made even greater by the lack of good roads and transportation. If the closest hospital is ten miles away, it is nearly impossible for a Navajo person to travel that distance for help even when the need is urgent. Not only that, but Navajo are times times more likely to have diabetes than other residents of the United States, mostly due to the lack of wholesome groceries anywhere nearby.

Shocking as it is, the lack of industry and infrastructure in the Navajo reservation, and in Native American reservations all over the United States, can be remedied. We focus greatly on helping developing countries all around the world, but at the same time turn a blind eye to those living in third world conditions right in our own country.  Shining a light on the living conditions of the Navajo people, our fellow Americans, is only the first step in bringing about change. We can make a difference by supporting nonprofits such as the Navajo Water Project, which works to bring clean running water to the 40% of Navajo families that live without, and Eve’s Fund, which brings hope and wellness to young Native Americans by focusing on injury prevention, literacy, and educational scholarships. We can encourage our friends and families to help as well, educating them and others about the poor conditions of Navajo living. We can and should do everything in our power to help the Navajo people, and the people on the 325 other Native American reservations across the United States. Because the United States stands as a shining example of industry, innovation and infrastructure to the rest of the world, with towering skyscrapers, limitless WiFi, indoor plumbing and seemingly endless supplies of food. We need to work to bring this image to reality, and bring the basic amenities found everywhere else in the United States to the homes of our fellow Native American citizens as well.   


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