What Our 100-Day Supply Drive Means to Our Native Partners
The EPA spill now affecting the Navajo Reservation is the result of the EPA releasing three million gallons of toxic waste water from an abandoned mine into the Animus River of Colorado, and reaching into the San Juan River that flows through parts of the Navajo Reservation. Although containment efforts are underway, arsenic and lead levels have reached 300 and 3500 times the normal limit, respectively. This is a challenge for the Navajo people and their organizations, and a threat to their livestock, particularly in San Juan County communities such as Monument Valley, Mexican Hat and Halchita, Utah, and remote communities like Kayenta, Ariz., and Shiprock, N.M. The Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management has shut down water intake systems from the San Juan River and declared a state of emergency due to the spill.
I am pleased that PWNA is able to provide much-needed water to these areas yet sorry to say contaminated water is not new to reservation communities. People living in many of the tribal communities PWNA serves struggle with unsafe drinking water daily. They haul in water for drinking, cooking, bathing and cleaning; some families even catch rainwater in large containers, as this is the most accessible water around. Imagine the hardship of living without water day to day – entire communities of people like those in the Hopi Villages of Upper Moenkopi and Lower Moenkopi whose drinking water is contaminated by dumping, or the children of First Mesa Elementary School in Walpi Village and Polacca whose water is contaminated by arsenic, or those in the Chilchinbito community on the Navajo Reservation whose water is contaminated by mining.
This is why, to our reservation partners, PWNA’s 100-day supply drive literally means putting water on the table. PWNA partner Aldena Pretty Weasel from the Elderly Nutrition Center on the Cheyenne River Reservation says,
“We always need water and we appreciate the deliveries from PWNA. We provide water on the tables every day when we serve lunch for the Elders, and we include water in our food bank distributions to Elders. The water from PWNA is really helpful and invaluable for our people.”
This is why PWNA collaborators like Kristie Carroll from Feed The Children recognize the challenge of unsafe drinking water and support PWNA’s supply drive. As Kristin puts it, “Feed the Children understands the need for water on the reservations. Living in communities where drinking water has been contaminated by environmental factors makes everyday life noticeably more difficult for Native Americans and we help out when we can.”
I hope everyone will learn from the EPA spill and take to heart the need for safe drinking water and the other supplies sought in our 100-day supply drive to serve Native communities – and help in any way you can.