PRESIDENT CLINTON'S TRIP TO BRING
DIGITAL OPPORTUNITY TO ALL AMERICANS
BACKGROUND ON INDIAN COUNTRY: THE NAVAJO NATION
APRIL 17, 2000
ECONOMIC CHALLENGES FACING NATIVE AMERICANS
In the United States today, there are more than 2.4 million Native
Americans that belong to more than 550 tribes. Almost everywhere, they
face serious economic challenges:
Half the total Native American workforce is unemployed - 50
percent in 1997 (Bureau of Indian Affairs 1997).
Nearly one-third of Native Americans live in poverty, compared
to 13 percent of the total U.S. population (Census Bureau, 1995).
Thirty-eight percent of Indian children aged 6 to 11 live below
the poverty level, more than twice the 18 percent rate for the
U.S. population as a whole. (Indian Health Service, 1997)
BACKGROUND ON THE NAVAJO NATION AND SHIPROCK, NEW MEXICO
With a population of about 235,000 and covering an area of 16.2 million
acres, the Navajo Nation is the largest Indian reservation in the United
Shiprock, NM, population 9,095, is the community on the reservation that
President Clinton will visit. It lies in the northeastern corner of the
Navajo Nation, not far from the point where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah
and Arizona meet. The town gets its name from a 1,700 foot geological
monument rising impressively from the surrounding plains. The Navajo
face most of the economic challenges confronting Indian reservations
across the United States, especially in building an Information Age
The Navajo Nation's unemployment rate was 58 percent in 1997
(Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1997).
With 38.8 percent of the Navajo Nation younger than age 16, the
local economy will have to create 3,500 jobs per year in order to keep
an already high unemployment rate from climbing further (Bureau of
Indian Affairs, 1997).
Only 22.5 percent of Navajo homes have telephone service compared
to 94.1 percent of all households in the United States (Dept. of
Commerce, 1999; American Indian Report, March, 2000).
The few telephone lines that exist are often antiquated and
therefore not well suited to transmitting the large volumes of data
that flow along the Internet.
Among the few Navajo towns that have Internet service, even fewer
have more than one Internet Service Provider and thus do not receive
the low prices made possible by competition.