Giving Compass' Take:
- The Rural Utah Project is helping Navajo Nation residents by providing them with “addressing specialists" to get services and amenities such as emergency healthcare, mail delivery, broadband internet, government-issued IDs, and voting rights.
- How can these services help address issues for Indigenous communities? How do government-issued IDs help strengthen Indigenous sovereignty?
- Learn more about Indigenous peoples here.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
About five miles north of the Arizona border, drive straight along a sand-swept road as it snakes through brush-covered foothills, keep going beyond a row of barns with rusting reddish roofs, make a left after a gray boulder, and the road will eventually lead to a cul-de-sac lined by two dozen homes. This is Navajo Mountain, Utah.
The tiny Native American settlement is named after the sacred, 10,000-foot-high sandstone peak that dominates the craggy skyline. It has been inhabited for centuries. It is in one of the most remote parts of the Beehive State, and in turn, the entire continental United States.
“Everything on Navajo Mountain is scattered and isolated,” says Dalene Redhorse, who was born in the town of Mexican Waters, around 60 miles to the east. “There are many off-roads with just one house. It’s not like a city here. Everything takes time.”
Redhorse is one of two “addressing specialists” at the nonprofit Rural Utah Project who, since 2019, have been going door-to-door visiting every home in the western half of Utah’s San Juan County, which includes Navajo Mountain. Her goal: to connect off-the-grid residents with essential services that they have often been denied.
Across Navajo Nation—the largest and most populous Native American reservation in the country, spanning 27,000 square miles and three states—formal street addresses are a rarity. Out of the more than 60,000 structures, fewer than 500 are on roads with names and house numbers, according to the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.
The culture of the Navajo, who are also known as Diné, is ancient, but modern American governments have imposed a systematized, Western concept of territory onto these communities. This has effectively erased their holistic relationship with ancestral lands and created staggering inequality. More than 40% of the Diné live in poverty, 48.5% are unemployed, 60% lack broadband, and 40% don’t have running water at home. Those structural issues played a role when Navajo Nation at one point reached the highest COVID infection rate in the U.S. (though thanks to community mobilization it also achieved a far higher vaccination rate than the national average).
The Diné say they have suffered because fundamental services and amenities such as emergency healthcare, mail delivery, broadband internet, government-issued IDs, and the right to vote often require having a formally recognized address.
Read the full article about getting addresses for the Navajo Nation by Peter Yeung at YES! Magazine.