New Mexico, Gallup
In northwestern New Mexico near the Arizona border is the city of Gallup, which abuts lands belonging to the Navajo Nation. A substantial part of Gallup’s population is Native American, including some Hopi, Zuni and a large number of Navajos. Gallup is also the location of The Community Pantry, which provides food to impoverished Navajo families and serves as our coordinating agency and link to the Navajo families we serve.
While some official statistics put Gallup’s unemployment rate at 20% in 2016, many of the “jobs” counted include self-employed individuals who create and sell handmade goods and provide services for very little money. According to the Navajo Nation, excluding these low-earning individuals would bring the true unemployment rate to just over 57%. Other issues add to the economic blight. Businesses stay away from the region because roads are unpaved, and electricity, water and telecommunications services are minimal to non-existent, although access has improved since 2000. Police and fire services are similarly limited.
According to 2010 census data (the latest available):
- Just over 46% of Navajo Nation homes had no telephones.
- Over 21% of homes had incomplete plumbing.
- 87% of the 9,286 miles of reservation roads were unpaved.
- 44% of people under the age of 18 in the Navajo Nation lived below the poverty level.
- Almost 32% of all households in the Navajo Nation had annual incomes below $15,000.
Outreach workers helping the Navajo families who use the Community Pantry say living conditions are extreme. “We have families with 4-7 children that live in one room — 20’x 20’ un-insulated, plywood shacks — with no utilities (maybe an extension cord strung from the one electrical meter located in the camp) and a wood stove. One ‘camp’ outhouse is for all families. Other families live in traditional Hogans (8-sided one room log/mud homes) with chunks of mud missing in the walls and cardboard or blankets stuffed in windows. Wind and dirt blow under the door. Soot from the wood stove accumulates, making air quality dangerous.”
Many families have no available transportation; cars are old and often broken-down, and public transportation is minimal or nonexistent. Distances are vast; without phones or transportation, communication is difficult and families are isolated.
Hilda Kendall, the chief operating officer at the Gallup Community Pantry, is our community contact in Gallup. The Pantry’s Emergency Food Assistance Program provides food to about 1,500 families every month.
The Community Pantry
PO Box 520
Gallup, New Mexico 87305
To learn more about the Navajo Nation in New Mexico:
- “On Parched Navajo Reservation, Truck-Driving ‘Water Lady’ Brings Liquid Gold”
- “Confronting a long tradition of silence”
Data Sources: Navajo Nation Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy 2018; Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development; Demographic Analysis of the Navajo Nation Using 2010 Census and 2016-2017 American Community Survey Estimates
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