Tomorrow’s election could tip the balance of power in one Utah county. It’s the first general election since a federal judge ordered some area districts redrawn. The election highlights tensions between Native Americans and white residents in the county—and its result could give Navajos there more clout.
Navajos make a slim majority in San Juan County, Utah, near the Utah-Arizona border. The county includes parts of the Navajo Nation, where people face huge differences in health, education, and economics. About 40% of the homes lack running water. Many lack electricity too. A judge ruled the county’s districts minimized the voices of its Navajo residents.
San Juan County Navajos also face challenges getting to the ballot box. They went to court to settle obstacles like lack of traditional street addresses, unreliable mail service, and language barriers. Election officials worked to address those issues, but Navajo leaders remain distrustful.
Sadly, as long as humans are involved, even the best governments in the world will evidence inequalities, prejudices, and wrong thinking. What an encouragement that Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Willie Grayeyes is running for the Democratic County Commission in a new, 65% Navajo district created after the judge’s ruling. “I want to sit at the table . . . rather than, ‘There’s an Indian sitting over there. Let’s see what he says.”
Grayeyes hopes to address needs like basic utilities and neglected dirt roads that tear up buses and can wash out in storms, keeping students out of school. If he wins, the county’s governing body will be majority Navajo for the first time.
Navajo Kenneth Maryboy is running unopposed for another commission seat. He believes the county could and should do more to help Native Americans.
He says, “If we have two Native Americans in there . . . that would be leverage to make things happen.”
(Democratic county commission candidate Willie Grayeyes, left, speaks to a group while Kenneth Maryboy, a Navajo running unopposed for another seat on the commission, looks on. AP Photo)