Turning on the lights or opening the fridge are
things many of us take for granted. But if you've never had electricity,
they might seem like luxuries. Now, for dozens of families on the
Navajo Nation, those luxuries are becoming a reality. As Arizona
Public Radio's Aaron Granillo reports, more than 60 families will
soon have electricity for the first time in their lives.
Margie Tso has a beautiful view from her family
ranch on the Navajo Nation, just southeast of Page.
"I have been living out here since 1952," said
From her front yard, you can see miles and miles
of red and orang sandstone. And LeChee Rock, a sacred mountain to
the Navajo people. But from the backyard, there's a clear view of
the Navajo Generating Station, which has been supplying electricity
all over the southwest since 1976. But not to Tso's house.
"At times we kind of grumbled about it, but what
could we do? I was brought up in the same matter that I learned
to deal with," said Tso. "Building a fire out of wood, using the
charcoal for everything. Making bread, cooking meat, making stew,
and such and such."
But all of that has changed because of a nearly
$5 million joint project that's bringing electricity to certain
areas of the Navajo Nation, including Tso's ranch.
"It's sort of a miracle for people to live like
that," said Tso. "Flip on a light. Get your remote. Your pleasure's
right there before you."
Although the Navajo Generating Station has been
producing electricity for decades, it's not legally allowed to provide
power to the Navajo Nation. That ownership and sovereignty belongs
to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. But according to officials,
they've never had enough money to build power poles in remote parts
of the reservation. That is until now.
"The Navajo Generating Station and SRP donated
about $2 million. NTUA donated some," said Paul Begay, a business
information technician with NGS.
Additional funding came from the Navajo Nation
Abandoned Mine Lands program and the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development. By 2015, the project will bring electricity
to 63 families.
"The first thing people mention is refrigerator.
'Oh good, I'm not going to buy any more ice,'" Begay said.
Using ice to keep food fresh is what Pearl Begay
did for decades. She lives just up the road from Tso's ranch. Pearl
only speaks native Navajo, so her daughter, Daisy, translates.
"She said she like her electric. The lights mostly,
and her refrigerator." said Daisy.
According to Daisy and Pearl, they should have
had power a long time ago. They claim they were promised electricity
nearly 40 years ago, while the Navajo Generating Station was being
"They built the plant right there, and they forget
them," said Daisy.
Their neighbor, Margie Tso, feels the same way.
"They started giving us hope, giving us hope,"
said Tso. "And then they say, 'It's going to cost too much.' And
so then I just lost hope. I thought, 'Well, whatever. I guess I
won't have electricity at the ranch.'"
But now that she does, life has become much easier.
"(It will) be quicker to do things than trying
to hook up this and that, or run out of gas and run to town to get
more gas," said Tso. "A miracle happened that it came through."