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

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs