Obama Rescinds 'Bennett Freeze': 40 Years of Restrictions For Navajos - SMSC Education Grants
By Kathy Helms
On May 8, 09
President Obama signed Senate Bill 39 into law, permanently rescinding the “Bennett Freeze” and ending more than 40 years of restrictions for Navajo Nation residents living on 1.6 million acres in the western portion of the Navajo Nation.
The freeze, which was imposed July 8, 1966, by then-Department of the Interior Secretary Robert Bennett, resulted from a decades-long land dispute between the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe and prevented residents from making improvements or repairs to their homes and related property.
Only 3 percent of families affected by the Bennett Freeze have electricity and only 10 percent have running water.
Tuba City, December 5th, 09
Imagine not being allowed to improve your home, make repairs or build a new one -- that is the plight of those who live in the Bennett Freeze.
Just south of Tuba City, where the pavement ends and the dirt roads begin, is an area known as “No Man's Land.” Residents say it's part of the former Bennett Freeze, but nobody really knows for sure. It's on the fringe and the Bennett Freeze happened a long time ago.
All they know is life is a struggle and help is basically non-existent.
Denise Almeida, 35, lives with her boyfriend and seven children in a 7-by-19-foot travel trailer on the family compound. Her mother and father reside in a two-room house in the middle. Denise's sister, Stevena, and her family live in a thin plywood hogan on the other side.
“We had a trailer here, a single-wide, and it burnt down. We don't have any way of like, getting a hogan done for us, so we've been in this trailer for almost three years,” Denise said.
An orange extension cord runs from her parents' home to the trailer, providing electricity for a dorm-room-size refrigerator, a small heater, and occasional television for the kids. The roof of the trailer is covered in multiple tarps to try to keep out the rain. The windows were broken out by a tornado that touched down in 2007 and are draped in blankets or other material.
“The last wood stove I had burned down my trailer, so I'm scared of wood stoves and I'm scared of propane,” Denise said. The electric heater doesn't produce much heat, so the trailer stays cold in winter.
“Sometimes when it rains really hard, it leaks from the ceiling. The walls are really bad. You can hear the mouses running around in there. My kids got sick from the mouse droppings. They all have asthma,” she said.
At night, Denise's boyfriend, Edward Zepeda, sleeps on the floor, she sleeps in a twin bed with the babies – Leon and Leticia. The boys sleep on the bunk beds and on the floor. “Actually, when it's warm enough out here, my daughter sleeps outside in 'the Blazer' because it's too crowed inside, or sometimes she stays over at my mom's house,” Denise said.
When Stevena and Brian moved to the family compound, their sons, Brandon, 2, and, Jayden, who turned a year old Nov. 28, hadn't been born yet.
“Before I got pregnant we used to live in my mom's Blazer. We stayed there for maybe like two months. It was getting to the winter. It was really cold.”
They moved into a rat-infested trailer on the family compound. “It was really bad. The ceiling was dripping all the time, there was mouses in there. We had to use the outhouse. I started getting sick and getting infections,” Stevena said. One morning she went to the outhouse and when she came back “she was feeling really weird,” Brian said. “We took her to the hospital and the doctor said it was a black widow bite.
“When we lived in that little trailer we used to have mice all the time. We'd get that sticky paper and we'd get like two or three a night,” he said.
“Even where we laid, there were mouses going on top of us and around us. It was kind of gross,” Stevena added.
The “Blazer,” which really isn't a Blazer but a similar-style vehicle, might not have been much, but at least it was mouse-free. After Brandon was born, they slept there. “We'd just throw our blankets down and put him in the middle,” Brian said.
That was in the winter, while Stevena's dad was repairing a hogan that had been damaged by fire so they would have a home. “It was burned from the stove all the way down to the door. The walls were kind of apart and it looked bad,” she said.
Though there is a Navajo taboo against living in burned-out structures, “We had no choice because we had nowhere else to live. My dad wanted some sort of shelter for my son. I was happy that he was building this. We don't have no mice, but we do have a lot of bugs in here,” she said. They fixed that by taping all the seams where the walls and ceiling come together with red plastic tape.
Like Denise's trailer, the hogan is powered by an extension cord running from Stevena's parents' house.
“It's hard to live like this because sometimes we have to use electricity and then sometimes extension cords burn out and it's hard for us to get extension cords to have lights.”
Neither Denise nor Stevena have running water, so cooking and bathing takes place at their parents' house. The water heater tore up a couple years ago, Stevena said, so there is no hot water.
“We have to take turns at the stove and sometimes my mom runs out of propane and we end up using a small electric stove to cook on. Only one burner works so we all have to take turns cooking at different hours,” Denise said.
Her boyfriend has only been able to find work one day a week. The family basically subsists on just over $300 a month from TANF and Food Stamps.
Despite the hardships, Denise said her children are doing well in school, except for Misael, who contracted Helicobacter Pyhri, a bacterlogical disease better known as H. pylori. He spent two months in the hospital last winter, which put him behind in his school work, and now will have to take medication every day for the rest of his life.
“My doctor wrote out a paper saying that we needed better housing than this, so we've been waiting all this time. We went to the chapter and to the housing authority,” she said. After the trailer burned, she even put up fliers at the grocery store, “trying to find a trailer for cheap,” but no one responded.
“I wouldn't really call this a home,” Denise said. “I guess I got used to it, the way we live and everything, but it's not a good situation for my kids.
“As soon as they get back from school they have to do their homework. I don't allow them to do their homework late because we don't really want to use up the lights,” she said. Her daughter, Elisa, 19, is trying to get into college, and Denise herself is getting together her high school records so she can enroll in adult education classes. Stevena and Brian already are taking classes.
Living in such tight quarters takes its toll. She suffers from migraines and asthma. “I feel so choked sometimes. It feels like I can't breathe. I can't move around. We try to do our best, but it seems like it's just getting worse and worse.”
After the trailer burned, she went to the chapter for help. The woman who waited on her “turned around and told me the reason why the trailer burnt down is because there was illegal stuff in there. I said, 'The only thing you guys found supposedly illegal in there is the syringes I use to give myself a shot for migraines.'
“It made me so mad, because they don't know nothing about us. They just figure, 'Well, that's what they were doing. We're not going to help them.' The only time people came around here to check on us was when that twister came. But we didn't get help from any of those people. They just took pictures and then they left.”
When Misael was sick and in the hospital a lady from school came by to check on him. After seeing the living conditions, she said she was going to report them to Social Services. “This living condition is no good for your kids. They need a better life,” Denise said she was told.
“I went up to that lady and I said, 'You know what, just because maybe you have a better living situation than us, that's no reason. At least I'm here for my kids. They're in school every day, they're not being abused. That doesn't make me a bad parent.'
“I hate it when people come around and they think they're better than other people. That's what I told her. She said, 'Well, you need to get help. You need a better living situation.' I said, 'Well, help me then. If you guys are concerned about it, help me.' That's what I told her.”
Shakopee Mdewakanton Announce $180,000 In Education Grants
by Tessa Lehto
Monday, December 07, 2009
Prior Lake, MN – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has awarded grants for a total of $180,000 to five schools or educational organizations.
The Flandreau Indian School of South Dakota received a $50,000 donation to support a behavior incentive program and extracurricular activities including rodeo club and culture club.
The Flandreau Indian School is the oldest continually operated federal Indian boarding school maintained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the U. S. Department of the Interior and is the only non-reservation high school in the region. The Flandreau Indian School has had over 10,000 graduates since 1873. Total SMSC donations to the school over recent years are $676,340.
Leech Lake Tribal College of Cass Lake, Minnesota, received $45,000 as the final installment of a three year grant as a match for a federal Title III grant. The federal grant funds are awarded to help Tribal Colleges build their endowments, providing for long-term growth and added financial stability. Earnings on Leech Lake Tribal College endowment funds are used for scholarships, technology upgrades, and student support services.
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe established Leech Lake Tribal College by Tribal Resolution in July 1990. Today, Leech Lake Tribal College includes approximately 70 faculty, staff, administrators, and 250 full-time students. Most of the students come from the Leech Lake Reservation and the surrounding reservations in Northern Minnesota. In addition, approximately 8% of the students enrolled at the College are non-Native American. Leech Lake
Tribal College Is Accredited By Higher Learning Commission
The Friends of Wolf Ridge of Prior Lake, Minnesota, received $35,000 as the final installment of a two year grant to support educational activities for fifth grade students at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center facility in northern Minnesota. For more than 30 years, the fifth grade classes at all the Prior Lake-Savage School District’s elementary schools have traveled north for a week of classes at this facility.
Wolf Ridge offers 57 units of curricula focused on environmental and natural sciences, cultural history, personal growth, team-building, and outdoor recreation skills. Funding for the program at Wolf Ridge was cut from the district budget a few years ago and since then the Friends of Wolf Ridge and the Prior Lake-Savage Area Educational Foundation have raised funds for the trip.
Wells Academy of Bemidji, Minnesota, received a $25,000 matching grant for an apprenticeship program for American Indians. The training school graduates six to seven apprentices a year in the 12-month, 40 hour per week program which trains machinists. Industrial training begins with safety and includes machining operations, tooling, project bidding, computer programming, quality control, and supervision.
Learning is by interactive computer lessons, hands-on machine operation, real-world customer projects, and field trips. Wells Technology, which provides the facility plus in-kind and financial support for Wells Academy, provides precisioned machine products to aerospace, medical, electronic, and computer industries.
Red Cloud Indian School of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, received $25,000 for a Lakota Language curriculum. The school has the goal of graduating fluent Lakota Language speakers by incorporating the language in all aspects of the curriculum. Red Cloud Indian School (Grades K-12) was founded as Holy Rosary Mission in 1888 by the Jesuits at the request Chief Red Cloud, a leader of the Oglala Sioux Indians on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Red Cloud Indian School is part of the almost 100 universities and over 400 high schools now sponsored by the Jesuits around the world. More graduates from Red Cloud High are successful in pursuing further education than from any other Indian school in the country; 100% of the 2008 graduating class enrolled in institutions of higher education or entered the US military. In 2009, seven Red Cloud students received the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship.
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