Wally Haase, general manager, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, spoke at the American Public Power Association’s National Conference on June 19, 2018, regarding how people without electricity in the Navajo Nation have to get their heat and water.
“We have a high elevation. We live in a high desert plain area, and what it means to not have electricity is, is we actually have winter. Three weeks ago when I left my house — I have been on the road just about three weeks in a row right now — and so it was about 33 degrees when I walked out of my house in Window Rock, Arizona. It went up to about 75, 80 that day, but you still have those cold nights, and we have winter, plain and simple.
“Because you don't have electricity, what that means for my people is they have to use wood, out of the forest, or more of them use coal out of the mine. Think about it. Here we are, 2018, still having homes heated by coal and wood.
“In addition to that it means that you don't have running water in your house. It means you have to take a 250-gallon plastic tank on the back of your pick- up truck or trailer, drive an hour to an hour-and-a-half to one of my watering points, and fill it up.
“Without electricity, you don't have refrigeration. What that means is, is when you come to the watering point — and the water will last you about 4 or 5 days, depending on how conservative you are — you basically buy your groceries. And when you're buying your groceries, it's not a Walmart. The Walmarts we have are just off the nation in the border towns. They're not on our communities, so they're longer drives for some people. That's more about a once-a-month trip. When you were a kid and you said you were going to town, that's really what's happening.
“They're buying their groceries and ice, to keep their perishables, at a convenience store, a gas station that has food next to it, that's it. They bring that home and it lasts for a period of time for them and they have to restart the cycle all over again.
“Because we have such a high unemployment rate, we have a workforce that's very well skilled and trained. They're mostly tradesmen or women, they also work in the service industries. They built Las Vegas, they built places in California, they travel all over for that. They leave their children behind with the elders because that's their home. They want their children to understand the culture. They want their children to be connected to the land and to the spirits that are there and the spirituality of the people and they want them to make sure that they keep their language alive.”