Challenges of the Navajo Nation
Get to know the Navajo Nation through the people that live there. We traveled across the Navajo Nation to interview people who represent a variety of different communities who are striving for a better future. Get to know their most pressing current issues and plans for the future in this article series.
Navajo Nation Council Delegate, Kee Allen Begay, Jr. grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Many Farms, Arizona, and is where he resides today. Delegate Begay represents a district of five chapters in the Central Agency which covers Tachee/Blue Gap, Many Farms, Nazlini, Tselani/Cottonwood, and Low Mountain. He is a member of the Resources and Development Committee of the 24th Navajo Nation Council and is currently serving his fourth term as Council Delegate.
Maternal Clan: Honágháahnii
Paternal Clan: Kinyaa’áanii
Maternal Grandfather: Bit’ahnii
Paternal Grandfather: Deeschíí’nii
Pictured: Delegate Kee Allen Begay, Jr. – Photo Credit: Navajo Nation
Delegate Begay is a graduate of Chinle High School and Arizona State University. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing. He understands the importance of education and bringing knowledge back to the Navajo community. Delegate Begay previously worked as a vocational teacher and Title VII Program assistant in the Rough Rock Community Schools which continues to inspire his work for improving K-12 schools, Tribal Colleges, and Universities. Delegate Begay is a huge advocator in supporting students in their academic journey.
Photo Credit: Kee Allen Begay, Jr.
Delegate Begay is a United States Army Veteran, he knows the needs of Navajo Veterans and he continues to work on funding and policies that support their services in the Navajo Nation. He recently invited the U.S. Veteran Affairs to the Navajo communities to share information on the Visitor Engagement Reporting Application (VERA) that reduces travel and time in seeking veteran benefits. However, for veterans and currently serving members, Delegate Begay wants to help establish more efficient housing, medical, and veteran benefits on the Navajo Reservation.
Broadband Internet & Cellular Service
Broadband internet and cellular service play a huge role in our day-to-day lives that most of us might take for granted. Everything in today’s time can be done online this includes education and online learning. In the Navajo Nation, some communities are without any cellular service or broadband internet right now-they are truly living off the grid. Delegate Begay wants to help each of his chapters by improving and implementing cellular service and broadband internet in each of the communities he represents.
Many Navajo people live in remote areas that are too far out from the current cell towers. The majority of cell towers are located at the local Chapter Government and only work for a three to a four-mile radius. He’s working on attaining additional towers to provide better opportunities and accessibility for the Navajo communities. This will take a lot of work by working with the Navajo Nation Government for policy-making and having these infrastructures become available. These are things that Delegate Begay plans to continue to obtain for the Navajo people so they can access it comfortably in their own homes.
The Arizona State Governor initiated a Smart Highway initiative for the interstate. Delegate Begay has been pushing to the state level requesting that highway 191 which goes south to north from I-40 to the Utah state line be selected as one of the Smart Highways. If that were to go through then the broadband line will be embedded in that roadway of the Arizona public transportation road. Then the Navajo Nation will have access to that particular broadband service which will be affordable for the Navajo Nation community.
The road infrastructure is another area that Delegate Begay is working diligently on improving. As many Navajo people live off the grid in remote areas the roads aren’t the safest, especially in inclement weather. Delegate Begay would like to put gravel roads but eventually fully pave the roads making way for safer travel.
Water, Electricity, & Septic
Water is also having a huge impact on Navajo communities. Approximately 30%-35% of residential homes in the Navajo Nation do not have a water line connected to their home. People are having to travel far to transport fresh water to their homes. At the same time, there are difficulties with septic systems and electricity. Many homes are without electricity. Delegate Begay has been working hard to get funding to resolve these problems so these Navajo communities can live more comfortably.
We often take for granted how lucky we are to have electricity, running water, plumbing, paved roads, education, internet, and cellular service. It’s a flip of a switch and we tend not to even think twice about it. There are many Navajo people who are living off the grid, it’s all they’ve known but it doesn’t mean we cannot help develop those communities with infrastructure through the right funding. Delegate Begay is continuing to work hard and advocate to make the Navajo Nation communities more comfortable through infrastructure.
Photo Credit: Kee Allen Begay, Jr.
The Navajo Nation is truly an extraordinary and breathtaking nation within a nation. It is over 27,000 miles and covers over four states: New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona. The Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department oversees all Navajo Tribal Parks in the largest sovereign nation in the United States. As a sovereign-autonomous tribal government, the Navajo Nation creates laws and governs its citizens – which means all non-Navajo travelers and visitors must comply with and abide by tribal regulations, policies, and laws. Their intent is the caretaking of Mother Earth, which Navajos respect at all times. Come experience the breathtaking views Navajo land has to offer.