In a year characterized by extreme weather, avid handwashing, and increasingly remote interactions, access to electricity is more important than ever. But 12 months into the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a basic right on which thousands of Navajo Nation members are still waiting.
“What it’s like to be without electricity? I don’t know how to describe it because we never had it before,” said Navajo elder and Black Mesa, Arizona, resident Percy Deal. “It’s always been this way, so we’re used to it. Until last year when this pandemic came in; that’s when we began to realize that these utilities are very important.”
Electricity has long been a contentious issue for Navajo Nation residents. Of the roughly 55,000 Indigenous households located on Navajo lands, which stretch across large parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, around 15,000 do not have electricity. And yet the reservation is an energy-exporting hotspot, having until recently been home to the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S, as well as many coal, uranium, oil, and fracking operations.
The Navajo Generating Station, or NGS, was officially decommissioned ... Read more