One-third of the Navajo Nation, the largest Native reservation in the United States, does not have access to electricity. Without electricity, people in the Navajo Nation don’t have access to lighting, air conditioning, essential appliances like microwaves and refrigerators, or running water. This limits the people’s quality of life and the area’s economic growth. 

While citizens in the region suffer from a lack of electricity, they are also having to deal with resource extraction for people who do have access to electricity. Coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium are present in the Navajo Nation, making it a hotspot for extraction. The southwest relies on coal generating stations in the Nation. When elders were approached by oil and gas companies, they were unaware of the full-scale productions and invasive techniques the companies would bring to the Nation. Language barriers further added to the miscommunication. Fracking and producing methane negatively affects the people of the Nation, causing high-risk pregnancies, asthma, headaches, and skin disorders. Fracking also results in road erosion and debris left in the road, damaging the cars of the Navajo people. 

Navajo Nation resident who just recently got access to electricity

Watch Beyond the Grid

In a collaboration between Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Sustainability, Beyond the Grid explores the lives of those in the Navajo Nation fighting for access to electricity. From explaining the cultural importance of living on ancestral land, to finally getting access to electricity, the documentary presents an emotional chronicle of a people who are suffering from environmental injustice. Video creators Courtney Columbus, Katrin Mehler, Brittany Nixon, and Lisa Marie Schlesinger say they hope to see renewable energy in the Navajo Nation continue to grow.