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50 Years Ago: Building of homes on rez blasted for lack of insulation

For the first time, but definitely not the last, the Navajo Times looked at the construction of public housing on the reservation and found massive problems.

MacEddy, general manager of Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, blasted housing construction companies for failing to build homes on the reservation that meet the requirements to keep families warm during the winter.
“What happens is that these families are left with a cold home with heating bills so high that many families are having problems paying their heating bills or are forced to keep their homes so cold that it becomes a health hazard,” he said.

Instead of blaming the construction workers for not building enough insulation in homes, many families are blaming NTUA, saying their heating charges are too high although the amount NTUA charges is way below the national average.

Instead of taking into consideration the low temperatures that occur annually on the reservation, MacEddy said, it appears the constructors are building homes for Phoenix instead of Shiprock.

He said for the past eight years NTUA has encouraged home constructors to put in decent insulation in the homes and make windows more resistant to keep hot air in during the cold winter months.

He pointed out that homes currently being built in Fort Defiance and Shiprock are being built out of cement blocks with no insulation. As a result, they will have more than six times the heat loss during winter months that a house with good insulation has.

MacEddy’s complaints may have been ignored in the former tribal administration but it seems to have raised concerns in the MacDonald administration.

A few days after the Times issued this report, the chairman’s office said discussions were underway to set some standards for the building of homes on the reservation and one of the things that will be taken into consideration is how well the homes will be insulated.

An example of change

Just one example of how things have changed on the reservation since Peter MacDonald took over as chairman can be seen on how he treats the press.

The former chairman, Raymond Nakai, hated the press and did everything he could to shun press events.

MacDonald, on the other hand, makes special efforts to get the press to come to the reservation and report about him or the tribal government.

As the first tribal fair under the MacDonald administration approached, he decided to hold a press event more than a month before the fair took place and invited press from all over the Southwest to come and find out what changes were in store for those who attended this year’s event.

And surprisingly, they came – from Phoenix and Albuquerque with the major newspapers in those cities sending reporters and photographers as well as local television stations.

Something like this had ever been done before and it helped that Great Western Bank let the tribe use its company jet to pick up the media representatives in Phoenix and Albuquerque in the morning and return them home again that afternoon.

The result of this was a string of stories in the papers and in the television stations promoting the annual tribal fair as a great tourism event for non-Indians who wanted to get an opportunity to see Indian culture first hand.

Missile on display

Every year Burnham, New Mexico, has a special two-day event at the end of July which it calls its “Little Chicken Days.”

It includes a rodeo, all kinds of Native vendors and special sporting events. It brings in thousands of people from all over the Navajo Reservation.

But this year’s event will be especially memorable because the U. S. Army has agreed to bring a full-size Patriot Missile to be on display for the entire two days of the event.

When asked why Burnham, a spokesman for the Army said it was because the event organizers are planning to honor Navajo veterans and Code Talkers at the event.

While this is probably true, the real reason the missile is coming to Burnham is because someone in the chain of officials at the Pentagon had a soft spot for what the Navajo Code Talkers did during World War II and wanted the Navajos a chance to see the mission close up.

The perfect opportunity to do this would have been at the tribal fair but the missile was touring all over the Southwest from July 4 until the end of September and it was scheduled to be in Texas during the month of September when the tribal fair was held.

The only time that was available was the end of July and the only event of any size at that time was the Burnham celebration so by the luck of the draw, Burnham had the opportunity to host the missile.

An idea to draw tourists

One of the issues that came up during the meeting of reporters from Phoenix and Albuquerque was an idea raised during the fair’s press conference concerning a suggestion on how to draw more non-Indians to visit the reservation.

The question brought up was the possibility of creating bed-and-breakfasts throughout the reservation giving tourists a chance to live in a hogan for a day or weekend.

The idea seemed to spark some interest in tribal economic development officials, who said they would draw up a proposal and present it next year to the tribal Council for consideration.


About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.

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