Challenges Facing the Navajo People

The Navajo people have been living in the Southwest “Four Corners” region for hundreds of years. Due to historical inequities and aggressive policies by the U.S. government towards Native Americans, the Navajo people face unique challenges today.


Navajo Evangelical Lutheran Mission is a Navajo-led church, school, and community resource center dedicated to supporting the Navajo people and removing barriers to thriving through love and compassion. We’ve outlined four major challenges that Navajo people experience, as well as how we are working to help.


  1. Access to clean water
  2. High rates of poverty
  3. Health disparities
  4. Language and cultural preservation

Access to clean water

Many Navajo households lack access to clean and safe drinking water due to a variety of factors, including contamination from uranium mines, inadequate infrastructure, and climate change-induced droughts.

The EPA estimates that about 15% of Navajo households do not have clean water piped to their homes. While this is down from 30% in 2003, Native American households are still 19 times more likely than white households to lack access to indoor plumbing. Uranium mining activities between 1944 and 1986 contaminated nearby water supplies, leading to increases in kidney failure and cancer.

In Rock Point, 40% of residents do not have access to clean water, making the work NELM does even more vital.

High rates of poverty

The Navajo Nation has a poverty rate of around 36%, which is more than double the national average. Poverty is a major barrier to accessing basic needs such as healthcare, education, and housing.

Additional factors, such as high rates of unemployment due to lack of available jobs, make it difficult for Navajo living in the Navajo nation to overcome historical inequities.

The Mission helps provide vital resources to the Navajo people at Rock Point, such as access to quality education, healthcare, a food bank, and pastoral care. Your support helps aid the Navajo people by supplementing basic needs with additional aid like clothing, warm quilts, social opportunities, volunteer groups, vaccinating animals, and free spay/neuter clinics.

Health disparities

Navajo people experience higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease compared to the general population. Limited access to healthcare services, healthy food options, and clean water exacerbate these health disparities.


The Covid-19 crisis hit the Navajo people extremely hard – in April of 2020 the Navajo nation had the third-highest rate of Covid per capita in the United States. Due to limited infrastructure (such as isolation, lack of electricity, or hospitals), mortality rates for people in the Navajo Nation were higher than in the surrounding states.


The Mission helps the people of Rock Point by sustaining and coordinating access to medical supplies and care.

Language and cultural preservation

The Navajo language is at risk of dying out as younger generations are less likely to speak the language fluently. Historical policies, such as boarding schools that separated Navajo children from their parents, and even modern policies such as restrictions on teaching in languages other than English in Arizona public schools, have made it challenging for the Navajo to pass on the language.


Efforts are underway today to preserve the language through education and translation of popular media like Star Wars or radio sports broadcasts into Diné Bizaad, the Navajo language.


The Mission is a Navajo-led church benefitting the Rock Point community by providing education and opportunities to young Navajo people.