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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs