Young Navajos Leave Reservation for Jobs

Posted on January 01, 2012

Lack of local work, educational opportunities send youth to urban areas

Ganado High School, located on the country’s largest Indian reservation, loses about 100 students per year. The hallways at Ganado High School are bustling in between classes. But they’re not nearly as crowded as they were just three years ago.

“I’m looking at a high school that, in the mid 2000s, ran about 850 students,” says principal Tom Rowland. “Now we’re down to about 575, 580.” Rowland says he’s losing about 100 students per year. “Families can’t find jobs here.”

The 2010 U.S. census shows a steady growth in America’s minority populations, including Native Americans across the southwest. But the country’s largest Indian reservation, the Navajo Nation where Ganado High School is located, actually saw its population shrink by three percent.

“They go to the urban areas to look for employment,” says Evelyn Begay, who’s worked for the school district for 28 years. “And that’s where they move their families.”

“Even though you hear politicians say, ‘We’re going to build jobs,’ we’ve heard that for 50 years, and we haven’t seen any significant impact on employment for our young people,” she says. “And as long as that’s continuing, we’re going to continue to lose our families, our children, to move away.”

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Author: Daniel Kraker, Voice of America