Shay Canyon and Navajo Tribe

Shay Canyon and Navajo Tribe

Shay Canyon is an untouched natural wonder in the northeast of Arizona state. This canyon is not advertised anywhere: no one offers horseback riding here, helicopter or kayak tours. It is not recommended to hike there and explore the bottom of Shay Canyon even on foot, as this area is vigilantly protected by ancient indigenous tribes belonging to the Navajo tribe.

Large But Poor Reserve

The Navajo tribe received the largest reserve in the U.S. that has a total area of ‚Äč‚Äčover 71,000 square kilometers in the Canyon Area stretching though the part of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Over 200,000 Navajo Indians live here. This area is called the Navajo Nation and it is semi-autonomous as the Navajo tribe have their own education and legal system, their own police, courts, medical centers, and almost all other attributes of a functioning state. Of course, the U.S. federal law still takes precedence over any Navajo decisions, but such semi-autonomy provides the tribe with taxes and other benefits.

However, despite the partial independence, U.S. government support, national compensations, abundant mineral, oil resources, as well as, uranium and coal mines, most of Navajo people live on the edge of poverty. The barren land of the Arizona and Utah deserts is unsuitable for agriculture, the education system is faltering, and towns now face dusty ruined streets and empty buildings.

The difficult economic situation is further exacerbated by high unemployment rate. There is a lack of infrastructure in this place, as a result, there is a lack of schools, no job-creating companies, and there are just a few large supermarkets in all the reserve. Due to the barren land of the canyon, it is almost impossible to grow vegetables here, so the locals mainly eat food and carbonated drinks provided by fast food restaurants. For this reason, statistically one third Indians in this area suffers from diabetes. In addition, many people of Navajo tribe suffer from drug addiction: alcohol is banned in this reserve, so many desperate Indians choose to use the smuggled methamphetamine from New Mexico.

Different Values

However, the situation is not completely black. The well-being of the Navajo nation should not be understood by traditional American standards. People run an exchange business worth at least $10 million a year: people pay for food, services, and other necessary purchases with products, cattle, wool blankets, and other items. The exchange system is older and more reliable than the system that the U.S. government is trying to impose on the Indians, so poverty and unemployment rates in the Navajo reserve do not necessarily reflect the real situation.

Different Values
Different Values

In addition, the Navajo have a different scale of values. They consider the family to be their greatest asset, not their homes, cars, or career opportunities. Some of people choose to live without electricity not because they could not afford to pay for it, but because they want to live a more traditional life. Finally, the Navajo people value talent and skills: if you learn to make tools or jewelry, graze animals, or ride horses, you will always be respected by the tribe. It is because of the peculiar value system that the Navajo tribe does not engage in the gambling business, which is very popular among other Native American tribes such as the Iroquois and the Oshis.

Lorence

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