Four Decades of Third World Conditions
How do you forget about an area of land larger than the state of Delaware? It sounds impossible, but the United States federal government managed to do it for almost 45 years. In 1966, then Director of Indian Affairs Robert Bennett ordered the complete cessation of all development on one and a half million acres of Navajo land in northeast Arizona. While officially repealed in 2009, the policies embodied in the "Bennett Freeze" drastically reduced the quality of life for a generation of Navajo. Two years into the "thaw", the humanitarian challenges in the region are still immense.
- 95% unemployment in the Bennett Freeze region and 65% reservation-wide.
- The highest death rates from malnutrition, plague, and exposure in the United States.
- Life expectancy is 44.6 years for men and less than 47 years for women.
Something in the Water
The third-world conditions encouraged by the Bennett Freeze were further intensified by long-standing environmental concerns. Some 1,300 open uranium and coal mines severely contaminated the region's water supplies. Unsafe drinking water has devastated the reservation, resulting in the highest infant mortality rate in the United States and cancer cases upwards of 17 times the national average. Finding safe and accessible drinking water remains one of the most significant challenges facing the Navajo people on the journey toward recovery.
A Mission of Hope
With a combined 37 years of hands-on experience in the mission field, Wings of Faith Ministries and Operation 29:11 are committed to working with local Navajo authorities to bring new life to those most effected by the Bennett Freeze. More than simply digging wells and rebuilding homes, we're expressing the love of Christ in tangible ways. It's this love that has given hope to countless forgotten and disparaged people throughout history. As 1 Peter 2:10 boldly declares, in Christ "those who were not a people are now the people of God".
For a more complete picture of the Forgotten People and the Bennett Freeze, we recommend the following resources:
- Decolonizing the Navajo Nation
- LA Times on the Bennett Freeze at Navajo/Hopi
- Bennett Freeze Officially Unthawed
- Obama Signs Bennett Freeze Repeal
- Congressional Hearing, Tuba City, July 9, 1993
- 40 Years Too Late
- No thaw: Despite Agreement, Bennett Freeze Residents Still 'Poorest of the Poor'
How to Help
The challenges caused by the Bennett Freeze won't be remedied overnight, but positive change can start by meeting a few basic needs.