Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

A Newsletter Celebrating Native America

Novemeber 18, 2000 - Issue 23


Navajo Nation Wired to the Net

CRYSTAL, N.M. Rosemary Moore-Mullahon chops wood to heat her home high in the Chuska Mountains, home to wild turkey, black bear and cougar, and a long way from the nearest telephone line.

When she arrives at the Crystal Chapter House, where the Internet has just been connected, she is excited that it will offer a link with the rest of the world.

"I think it's amazing!" says Moore-Mullahon, a health worker who spends her days visiting Navajo elderly in mountain hogans and cabins.

Ben Jones, executive director of the Navajo Division of Community Development, is equally excited as he announces that all 110 Navajo chapters in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah are going online.

"This will have the most revolutionary impact on the Navajo people since the beginning of the Navajo Nation," Jones said.

He sees the Internet as a tool for preserving Navajo language. Besides, he says, wireless communication is nothing new to Navajos.

"Traditionally we have always had a strong network that has tied together our clans, the family and community. Our ancestors were the best facilitators of the wireless and the invisible. These communications were always present. We're just working with something more tangible now."

Phillip Bluehouse, superintendent at Chinle Unified Schools, agreed. He said Navajos have always been aware of the communication network between physical and non-physical realms, material and spiritual worlds. Bluehouse compared it to the communication between mountains, holy beings and nature.

"There is this communication, this relationship, among natural things," Bluehouse said.

As Navajos celebrated going online, many were questioning what has become of the high-tech promises made by President Clinton and major corporations.

As the final two chapters were being connected, Jones admitted that he has heard nothing from Clinton, the FCC or corporations about the computers, Internet service and $1-per-month phone service promised when Clinton was in Shiprock in April.

What has come through are computers from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Navajo Internet satellite dishes on chapter house roofs were made possible by a special grant, obtained by Seba Dalkai School in Teesto from the Department of Commerce. The school expanded the grant to include all 110 chapters.

Meanwhile, Moore-Mullahon says the Internet in Crystal will provide a new source of education.

"It will be good for our grandchildren to learn about people in other countries and how it is outside the Navajo Nation. We have it pretty good here."

Veda Francisco, Crystal chapter secretary, is also thrilled and eager to learn her way around the Web. Already, her third-grade son Corbin created a card on the Internet at school for her.

"It said, 'I love you mom.' "

On the mountain top in Crystal, where every phone call beyond Navajo, N.M., is long distance, Head Start teacher Victoria Seletstewa watches 4-year-old Brittany Thompson enjoy touch-screen computer learning games.

"All the Head Starts have computers now," says Seletstewa, anxious for the promised Internet connection to be completed.

Over at Wheatfields Lake, Alfred Yazzie of Pinon is fishing for trout on a windy day. Yazzie said he would love to surf the Net and read hunting stories and sports news.

"Any type of news," he adds.

Paula Begay, clerk typist at Wheatfields Chapter House in Arizona, quickly learned her way around the Web.

"It was announced at the chapter meeting and people were real excited. There is a lot of good information."

In a community where people haul water and wood, light their homes with kerosene lanterns and dig out of snow and mud in winter, Begay says, "I think the Internet is amazing."



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