We have been coming to the community of Hidden Springs for about 20 years. Because of the time we have spent here, we have grown to know and love the people on the Reservation. However, the history of the area is an important part of the story and another reason our hearts were drawn here
In 1966, the United States government found uranium on the land and wanted access to it. They tried to get the Navajos to move off the land in various ways. Being unsuccessful, the head of the Indian Bureau of Affairs put a freeze on the land – called “Bennett’s Freeze.” This meant that “in the ‘frozen’ area, no development at all could occur. This included fixing roofs, building houses, constructing gas and water lines, and repairing roads.”
This rule was in place until it was repealed in 2009.
Sadly – this reality has led to an abundance of poverty & lack of jobs, and the community finds their homes and structures in a state of great disrepair. The ban, which lasted 40 years, affected the lives of nearly 10,000 Navajo people who lived in the area.
Around 20,000 people currently live in the formerly frozen area. Although the development freeze has been lifted since 2009, people in the area continue to suffer.
Only 24% of the houses in the area are habitable, almost 60% do not have electricity, and the majority do not have access to potable running water.
The legacy of the Bennett Freeze still looms over the region and deeply affects the day-to-day lives of its residents. In testimony before Congress, Nelson Gorman, Jr., Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, likened it to “the deplorable conditions approximating those found only in underdeveloped third world countries.”
You can read more about the Bennett Freeze on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bennett_Freeze)