Right now I'm spending time with the Navajos in New Mexico. (Pictures will come later when I have the technology to load them) As the Native American Advocate for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, I've come here to get a better grasp on the priorites some American Indians have for this next year -- hopefully priorities that I can help move in Congress.
It's been a wonderful experience so far. I'm staying with an older woman who grows her own vegetables and keeps two sheep for pets. She loves to tell stories and I've been intently listening to her wise lessons. I've also hung out at the Chapter house, making friends with the communtiy, learning a few Navajo words, and eating the pinon nuts that are grown locally. Tomorrow I plan to drive through more areas of the reservation with an older man who has a deep sense of this land and its history.
The people that I've met are so kind yet so many still live in poverty. The main concerns of the community leadership are getting locals electricity and water in the homes, paved roads, infrastructure, education, employment, and on and on. These are the basic things that I thought everyone in America had -- but I'm getting a strong lesson on how that is far from the case.
Seeing they have someone from Washington DC gives some people I've talked with some guarded hope that I can cut across the red tape to get them a post office. I keep telling them that I can only work on legislation that is on the national level but they've chosen to ignore what my "official duties" are. So I've started volunteering some of my time to get some kind of post office in their community. I've written up a survey for the community, written down questions for the leaders, and kept in touch with a volunteer in Washington DC who has worked on getting a post office before.
Most people take post offices for granted. These people do not have home addresses so the only address they can give the government is their post office address. The problem with this is that their address is the only way the government allocates services and if their post office is not in the same town that the allocation of services is (like health care) then they have to struggle to prove their rights as Navajos.
Basic infrastructure is needed to give people the opportunity for a better future. Even if it's one post office at a time...