Navajo Nation Rises through Hard Challenges

Eunie Gordon
14 August 2020

Latter-day Saint Charities Gives Humanitarian Aid to the Largest American Indian Tribe

Conditions in the Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation is home to the largest American Indian tribe, located within Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. More than 255,000 people live on the reservation and in surrounding communities. The COVID-19 crisis has hit the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation the hardest; according to the Utah Department of Health, the infection rate there is about 12 times greater than Utah’s overall rate.

The COVID-19 crisis adds another challenge to already-poor living conditions. In the Navajo Nation, 40 percent of homes lack running water, 32 percent lack electricity, 86 percent lack natural gas, and 38 percent live at or below the poverty line, with a 42 percent unemployment rate.

A Navajo woman living on the eastern side of the reservation with her granddaughter gratefully accepted the care package items, repeatedly saying “A’he’hee’”—an expression of deep gratitude—to Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) employees who dropped off the items in partnership with Latter-day Saint Charities. © Navajo Tribal Utility Authority

COVID-19 Aid

Local leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have helped to provide donations. These include food, water, personal protective equipment, cleaning and household products, and medical supplies—notably:

  • 16 combined truckloads of food from the Church’s bishops’ storehouses and private donations.

  • 10,300 cotton face masks.

  • Certified face shields.

  • N95 and surgical masks.

  • 53 hospital beds.

Along with these essential donations, over 100 full-time Church missionaries assembled 3,600 food boxes and delivered them to individual households.

A Light Up Navajo applicant met the care package delivery and was deeply appreciative as NTUA teams loaded the items into his truck. © Navajo Tribal Utility Authority

Self-Reliance Programs

Additionally, Latter-day Saint Charities has provided humanitarian relief through self-reliance programs. These programs are self-sustaining and include projects related to clean water, electrical power, and gardening. Nearly 700 family gardens have been established and are maintained by local residents. This sustaining effort provides food while teaching individuals to become self-reliant. These programs bring Navajo residents together and help them provide for themselves and serve one another.

With the help of these donations and self-sustaining projects, the people who live on the reservation can better protect themselves and their communities from the adverse effects of COVID-19 and improve their overall living conditions.

NTUA employees carefully packaged and boxed the items that were delivered to Navajo homes without electricity. © Navajo Tribal Utility Authority