Bennett Freeze project attracts attention of Navajo leaders

Adult Workforce Department worker Eva Wilson documents living conditions at a home in the Bennett Freeze area as part of the Former Bennett Freeze Area Field Intake Project. Ryan Williams/NHO

Adult Workforce Department worker Eva Wilson documents living conditions at a home in the Bennett Freeze area as part of the Former Bennett Freeze Area Field Intake Project. Ryan Williams/NHO

TUBA CITY, Ariz. - Council Delegate Otto Tso (Tó Nanees Dizi) commended Tó Nanees Dizi summer college interns at the Former Bennett Freeze Area Field Intake Project at an appreciation banquet at Tó Nanees Dizi Local Government Center Aug. 11.

A total of 25 summer interns conducted field visits to homes within the Bennett Freeze area as part of The Former Bennett Freeze Area Field Intake Project.

They conducted housing assessments and documented current conditions, identified existing infrastructure, verified grazing permit and home site lease statuses, verified physical addresses, collected photos of homes, and inputted geographical coordinates of homes and roads.

Council Delegate Otto Tso (Tó Nanees Dizi) expressed his appreciation to the college students for initiating and working on the project to help Former Bennett Freeze Area community members.

"I am grateful for our Tó Nanees Dizi college students for doing this work in the FBFA. The data collected will greatly assist the chapter and the Nation. The FBFA needs a lot of attention and many of our family and community members are waiting for opportunities to improve the conditions of the area. This project will allow opportunities for funding," stated Delegate Tso.

According to Tó Nanees Dizi Local Government Executive Manager Regina Allison, 18 college students, five Navajo Nation Department of Workforce Development employees, and two chapter employees participated in the project for the duration of 10-weeks. The college students represented Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona, Pima Community College, Utah State University, Diné College, Grand Canyon University and Mesa Community College.

"The chapter and the chapter commissioner's goal was to utilize our intelligent and bright students. Many chapters hire summer youth for labor work but we gave our youth the opportunity to help the community by using their skills and abilities," added Allison.

Delegate Tso added that the summer youth enrichment programs would not have been possible without council's advocacy for youth funding and the chapter's ability to utilize sales tax revenues.

In May, council members unanimously voted in support of legislation that approved funding in the amount of $2 million for chapters to provide employment and enrichment opportunities for Navajo high school and college students.

"I am thankful that our tribal leaders gave us this opportunity to participate and lead a project of this magnitude. I learned a lot and I personally saw the struggle of people who are affected by the Bennett Freeze. Many homes have no water, no electricity, and poor housing conditions. It made me sad that our Diné people have to endure these challenges. This project taught us to think critically and prepare us to help our Diné communities after college," stated college intern Amber Neztosie during the appreciation banquet.

The Former Bennett Freeze Area Field Intake Project report will be available through Tó Nanees Dizi Local Government when completed. More information is available about the project by emailing the Tó Nanees Dizi Local Government at tonaneesdizi@navajochapters.org.

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