Navigating Navajo Nation Is About to Get Easier

GEOGRAPHY

Imagine trying to find a house when your directions sound like this: “When the pavement ends, drive a mile and turn left at the school bus stop. Then it’s the third house on the right.” On the Navajo Nation, this scenario is common. But that’s beginning to change. (NPR)

Use our resources to better understand the language of location and why it’s important.

The Navajo Nation Rural Addressing Authority is working to make sure more homes and other structures on the Navajo Nation have real addresses—something that would make law enforcement more efficient. Photograph by Bruce Dale, National Geographic

The Navajo Nation Rural Addressing Authority is working to make sure more homes and other structures on the Navajo Nation have real addresses—something that would make law enforcement more efficient.
Photograph by Bruce Dale, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • According to NPR, what makes issuing an address so difficult on the Navajo Nation?
    • The Navajo Nation is enormous—the reservation spans more than 69,930 square kilometers (27,000 square miles). That’s an area about the size of West Virginia, and stretches across three states (Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico). Here’s a map of the police districts in the Navajo Nation.
    • Not all structures qualify for addresses. Abandoned homes and sheds aren’t eligible for a number. It takes a lot of time and effort to discern if a structure is a residence or business, especially if it is only used part of the year.

 

  • Why is it so important for places to have physical addresses?
    • health care. Knowing a location for a specific place helps ambulances and health-care professionals respond more quickly and efficiently to accidents or other emergencies.
    • law enforcement. Discrete addresses may help police officers work together to halt or prevent criminal activity.
    • voter registration. Having a verified residence makes it easier for residents to vote in local, state, and national elections.
    • home loans. Having averified residence makes it easier for residents to qualify for better mortgages, refinancing, and other home loans.
    • convenience. Having a specific address makes mail delivery much quicker and easier. Visitors are also more likely to find the location.

 

  • One resident of the Navajo Nation gave her location as: “When the pavement ends, drive a mile and turn left at the school bus stop. Then it’s the third house on the right.” Without addresses or road signs, how would you give directions to your home, school, or other local landmark? What language or concepts in spatial thinking would you use? Use our terrific suite of activities for some help: “Using the Language of Location,” “Location and Place: A Geographic Perspective,” or “Location and Place in Your Classroom
    • Possible answers might include:
      • natural landmarks or features, such as trees, hills, rivers, or cliffs
      • artificial (man-made) landmarks or features, such as agricultural fields, businesses or buildings, parking lots and bus stops, or parks
      • mental landmarks, such as where a farmers market is held or a famous event took place
      • colors, sizes, and shapes of landmarks or features
      • relative distance between landmarks or features
      • directions (cardinal directions, as well as right and left, near or far, “across the street” or “down the block”)

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

NPR: Navigating Navajo Nation Soon To Be Easier For Amazon, Ambulances

Nat Geo: Using the Language of Location

Nat Geo: Location and Place: A Geographic Perspective

Nat Geo: Location and Place in Your Classroom

One response to “Navigating Navajo Nation Is About to Get Easier

  1. Pingback: Tracing Ancient Migration through Language | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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