A Complex Problem with Dire Consequences.
Artticle in The Verge, https://www.theverge.com/2020/7/6/21311211/navajo-nation-covid-19-running-water-access
Yesterday I was talking with one of our members about the hardship so many Dine have obtaining water for their villages. I understand that trucks deliver water to many of them on a schedule. We wondered why they are not in general served by wells. Is it the expense of drilling that prevents that?"
Jennifer Holmes, NB Board member <email@example.com> wrote:
Thank you for your question, and your prayers, encouragement, and interest about the Diné land and culture. The more folks know about our Diné neighbors, the more we can all understand each other.
About water on the Navajo Nation, here's my take:
Short answer: colonization.
Longer answer: It's very difficult to get permission from the Chapter/Tribe/ Bureau of Indian Affairs/State of NM/ Bureau of Land Management/ to drill a well. There's a lot of red tape and bureaucracy. All reservation land is held in trust by the US government via the Navajo tribal government. When "The Great White Fathers" in Washington set up the reservations, they had in mind individual land owners, like the bilagaana (white) way. But the Diné and most other tribes are a communal people and individual land ownership was a foreign idea. Anyway, they did adapt to the new system and now any homes or home-improvement requires a home-site lease from the tribe. Since the land was typically passed down to families through the generations, many of the allotments have been divided and subdivided which has caused strife among families. So now people are fighting with each other about land allotments as well as fighting with the bureaucracy of the tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and all the other government regulatory entities. Then on top of that, a lot of private drilling companies don't like to do business on a reservation because of some bad history with collecting payments (both from individuals and from the tribe.) And there is a history of corruption with drilling contracts, both federal and tribal. This is a simplistic analysis and is neither scholarly nor well researched. Just my observation.
June Leonard and Nelson Capitan from Laguna Presbyterian Church, and the Native American Ministries Coordinating Committee (NAMCC) of the Synod of the Southwest would be good resources to seek more infromation. Both are experts on the subject from a personal and professional standpoint. June is a water/land-rights lawyer besides being a scholar on the Doctrine of Discovery.
Finally, there are many articles and videos reporting on Navajo water issues and there are many other organizations beyond Nihitaa' Binaanish who are working on a solution, such as the Navajo Water Project and the Presbyterian Church USA. You can also see posts on Nihitaa' Binaanish's FaceBook page for our perspective and articles on land issues and why COVID19 is so devestating in Diné Bikéya.
edited by Kenneth Holmes