The Covid-19 pandemic has brought additional urgency to a long-time issue for the Navajo Nation: lack of electricity. Despite historically being a major energy exporter, 14,000 households on Navajo lands currently don’t have access to electricity. An existing government program offers funding for Navajo residents to be connected to the grid, but strict eligibility requirements has made it oftentimes inaccessible. When the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station closed in 2019, the “Light Up Navajo” initiative was started with the goal of addressing this historical injustice by connecting Idigneous households to the grid or outfitting homes with solar panels.

So far, the program has been met with limited success, as only 1,000 households have gotten power over the past two years. A new phase of the program is planned, but not until 2022. For many Navajo residents there has been a focus on connecting households to renewable energy, after decades of coal production and uranium mining on their land degraded the environment and caused health issues for residents. “It’s like our water has been depleted to provide energy for everyone else,” said Carol Davis, coordinator and director of the Navajo rights advocacy organization Diné C.A.R.E. “We have all of this development that’s taking place on our land that has benefited other people, but not us, and we’re living with a lot of really sick people.” (Grist