News / USA

Young Navajos Leave Reservation for Jobs

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.
Ganado High School, located on the country’s largest Indian reservation, loses about 100 students per year.

Multimedia

Audio
Daniel Kraker

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.”

All five of Begay's children graduated from Ganado before going on to Arizona State University. And all five stayed in the Phoenix area after graduation.

“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.”

Strong winds are whipping tumbleweeds across the lone highway that runs through Ganado. There’s almost nothing here in the way of local industry. The community’s two largest employers are the hospital and the school district. That’s why teachers and staff like Nathan Brady, who’s the facility coordinator at Ganado High School, all tell students to leave the reservation behind when they graduate.

“Every one of them is going to encourage them, 'Go, go, get an education, get a job,'” says Brady. “They look back and there’s nothing here. There’s nothing for them to build on. There’s no employment so they stay out there.”

That’s what Brady did. After graduating from high school 20 years ago, he enlisted in the Navy. But he recently returned to the reservation, turning down a duty station in Hawaii and full retirement benefits.

“I’d rather be out here to see the stars at night, rather be out here to hear the birds chirping. I knew I wanted to come back.”

A lot of young Navajos feel that way. The reservation is isolated, it’s desolate, the economy is stagnant - but it’s home.

“I think a lot of kids do want to come back, it’s just that if they come back, then they’re going to be stuck at home not working," says Marden Kinlichee, who just graduated from Ganado High School. In August, she'll leave for the University of New Mexico to study nursing.

But, unlike many of her classmates, she plans to return. It’s part of the reason she’s choosing a career in nursing. She knows she can find a job close to home where she can help her people.

“That’s how I was raised, to come back and help my grandparents," says Kinlichee. "And we need a lot of help out here.”

The population on the Navajo Nation is getting older. Two thirds of those now living on the reservation are over 18, up seven percent from a decade ago.

But people in Ganado aren’t that worried about what many call the “brain drain.” They’re confident that the land, the culture, and the language will bring young people back when they’re ready.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More