Note: This article is not about Big Mountain directly, but it is important to to tell the entire story, and this is also a part of that story.
Sunday, 6 February 2000
WINDOW ROCK (AP) - Wanda Segina and her four young children moved to the capital of the nation's largest American Indian nation and promptly made one home improvement.
They put in an outhouse.
The family has no electricity, no running water and no sewer.
They cook over an open fire, bathe in water hauled in by relatives.
And though the trailer the family shares has three bedrooms, they sleep in one, huddling together in the cold winter nights.
``It's a living hell. It's a disaster for me as a mom,'' said Segina, whose children are first, second, third and fourth graders.
Segina's living conditions are shared by thousands on the 4.8 million-acre Navajo Reservation, which sprawls across portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
Throughout America's Indian reservations housing is in desperately short supply and often substandard.
The National American Indian Housing Council estimates U.S. reservations need 200,000 houses to alleviate overcrowding and replace inadequate dwellings.
More than half of the Navajo Reservation's 56,372 homes lack complete plumbing and a large percentage still use wood as the primary heating source, according to 1990 census figures.
What keeps many American Indians from being able to buy or live in adequate homes is a head-spinning host of problems: high unemployment, few willing lenders, almost no private land and bureaucratic red tape.
Even basic knowledge about establishing good credit and applying for mortgages can trip up many would-be buyers, said Ernest Goatson, director of the Navajo Housing Service Department.
Tradition can also prove a major obstacle to modern housing, Jones said.
Navajos have historically lived far apart, with the rugged Northern Arizona hills separating their corn crops and sheep from their neighbors.
Their hogans, round dwellings built from native trees, were constructed by individual families.
``The way they saw their homes was spiritual, more of a cathedral, not property,'' Jones said. Building a home was a measure of manhood, he said.
But for Navajos like Segina, for whom traditional dwellings are less important, money is an insurmountable obstacle.
Like Segina, roughly half of the Navajo Reservation's 151,105 residents are jobless.
The single mother's only source of income is child support and odd
auto-repair jobs, making it almost impossible for her to raise the $6,000
it would cost to connect her to the closest power line and the $8,000 it
would cost for a water connection.
Believe it or not, Wanda Segina is one of the lucky people. She was allowed to make the improvement of adding the outhouse. If she could come up with the $6,000.00 she could add electric power also.
In areas of this same reservation, the U.S. government has imposed a law which is commonly called the Bennett Freeze act. This law makes it a CRIME to make any improvements.
Within the area covered by this Bennett Freeze act, even if one could come up with the $6,000.00 - IT WOULD BE AGAINST FEDERAL LAW TO ADD ELECTRIC POWER TO A HOME!