Navajo Nation funds Gentle Ironhawk domestic violence shelter in Utah

Utah Navajo Health System, Inc., the not-for-profit organization incorporated in Utah, recently received more than $3.2 million in funds from the Navajo Nation. (Photo/NNOP)

Utah Navajo Health System, Inc., the not-for-profit organization incorporated in Utah, recently received more than $3.2 million in funds from the Navajo Nation. (Photo/NNOP)

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Utah Navajo Health System, Inc., the not-for-profit organization incorporated in Utah, recently received more than $3.2 million in funds from the Navajo Nation.

On May 19, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren thanked the nonprofit healthcare organization for the work they’ve been doing for victims of domestic violence.

“I think that it is a phenomenal approach that you guys are taking,” Nygren said.

The funding the Nygren signed on Friday will go to Gentle Ironhawk Shelter, which offers around-the-clock services like housing, counseling, behavioral health therapy, and referrals to medical services.

In April, Teresa Leger Fernandez, the Representative from New Mexico, spoke at a private event hosted by the Navajo Division of Social Services to present the Navajo Nation with $3 million from the 2022-23 Congressional Budget Bill.

Leger Fernandez welcomed constituents and advocacy groups through the state of New Mexico to submit their requests for community project funding for Fiscal Year 2023.

Executive Director for Navajo Division of Social Services, Thomas Cody, said the funding for the Shiprock domestic violence shelter would be used to renovate and expand the Northern T.R.E.E. House.

Cody added his social services division is in partnership with Utah Navajo Health System, which is currently managing the Gentle Iron Hawk Shelter.

Leger Fernandez said the total costs for Shiprock is $4.3 million, of which the Navajo Nation funds the remaining $1.3 million.

Friday’s signing means the Gentle Ironhawk Shelter, which is only one of two women’s shelters in San Juan County, Utah, will use the funding to help them tackle the challenges of traveling long distances, bring more awareness to the types services they offer, address historical trauma and cultural sensitivity.

Utah Navajo Health System, Inc. operates several health centers and clinics in the area, including the Montezuma Creek Community Health Center, Monument Valley Health Center, Navajo Mountain Community Health Center and the Blanding Family Practice Clinic.

Native American women and girls experience violence at disproportionately higher rates than other populations in the United States. According to a report by the National Institute of Justice, more than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women (84.3%) have experienced violence in their lifetime, including sexual violence, physical violence and stalking. This is significantly higher than the national average for women of all races.

The reasons for this high rate of violence against Native American women are complex and multifaceted. Historical trauma, poverty, lack of access to healthcare and social services, and systemic racism are among the factors that contribute to this problem. Additionally, many violence cases against Native American women go unreported and un-prosecuted due to jurisdictional issues and other legal barriers.

Several organizations and advocacy groups are working to raise awareness of this issue and to develop strategies to prevent violence and support victims.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) includes provisions to improve the response of law enforcement and the justice system to crimes against Native American women, and some tribal communities have implemented strategies to address violence and support survivors.

However, much more work is needed to address this ongoing crisis and ensure the safety and well-being of Native American women and girls.

After the signing ceremony, President Nygren thanked UNHS once more.

“I want to thank the UNHS for partnering with the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services, through a memorandum of agreement, to operate the Gentle Iron Hawk domestic violence shelter,” the President said. “Domestic violence adversely impacts our culture, our way of life, and our communities. It leaves long-term emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical harm. We, as parties to this partnership, will provide vulnerable victims with a safe place and support necessary while they gain independence through self-empowerment and education.”

UNHS has three behavioral health victim advocate service offices in Shiprock, Gallup and Crownpoint, New Mexico.

Gentle Ironhawk Shelter is an 18-bed shelter for women and children who need immediate help.

For more information about supporting projects like the Gentle Irownhawk Shelter, visit

Information provided by the Office of the Navajo Nation President.

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