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Tsenit'eel Community Building

HISTORY OF THE COMMUNITY BUILDING

The Navajo Nation initially built this structure for the White Mesa community in 1976. Over the years, people have vandalized the facility and destroyed the building by stealing parts. The building was a sorrowful sight to see. 

From 1966 to 2009, the White Mesa area was part of the "Bennet Freeze," a 43-year development ban by the US government. During this time, the community was not allowed to repair their homes or surrounding structures, construct gas or water lines, or repair roads. Helicopter surveillance flew over the area from the 1970s to the early 1980s. People spotted on rooftops were reported to local police. The Hopi police would respond and ask what residents were doing on top of their homes and enforced the development ban. Therefore, residents addressed leaking roofs by putting a plastic bucket or an empty bowl out, letting the water drip into it when it rained. At the same time, corrals and other structures were in disarray. The residents learned to live with the situation. Since the Bennett Freeze has lifted, our community has been promised repairs and new homes. But, this has not happened to this day. In 2019, the White Mesa community finally got connected to electricity and, for those that could afford it, running water. 

There are 110 Chapters on the Navajo Nation that run the local government. The White Mesa community is supposed to be a part of the Tonalea Chapter. Still, when residents approach the Tonalea Chapter for assistance, they are told to go to the Kaibeto Chapter. When residents go to the Kaibeto Chapter, they are told that they belong to the Tonalea Chapter. It has become pointless to ask for help from either of the Chapters. Therefore, the goal of restoring the building is to help the White Mesa community function independently and rebuild our community. 

Many of the children of the families in White Mesa move to cities because there are no job opportunities or resources available around White Mesa. Very few people wish to remain living on and around White Mesa. The goal of the Community Building is to make a positive change in the community by creating job opportunities to support a decent living. In addition to creating a stable community independent of the local Chapters. 

COMMUNITY BUILDING OF WHITE MESA

In July 2021, Nakona Scott (Patrick's son) and his brother Calton Dodson started restoring the community building by putting a fence up to secure the building, and a road was created using a skid-steer. Then Nakona, Juelz Yazzie, and Thompson Scott Jr. began rebuilding the structure. 

They started by refilling a hole on the north side of the building that was 50 ft wide, 40 ft long, and x 10 ft deep.  Next, they addressed the crumbling footing and walls by replacing the foundation and stem walls. On inspection, only a few loose bolts were holding the weight of the building up and got replaced.

Once they addressed the structural issues, they lifted the entire building, and the old deteriorated wood got replaced with new wood. The stolen doors got replaced, and the disintegrating floor was replaced and resurfaced. They filled the many leaks in the building, and the inside got reinforced with two-by-four boards. On the interior of the building, they installed felt paper, foam board insulation, drywall, then painted the walls. 

Construction will now focus on the surrounding property, including landscaping, utilities, and several small structures. 

  • Landscaping will involve gravel to create a graded road and parking area in addition to trees, plants, and an outside seating area. 

  • Connection to water and electricity are in the planning phase. 

  • They will build a cookhouse and outdoor restroom facilities in 2022. 

 

The White Mesa Community Building restoration has become a personal project for Patrick and has involved his entire family. In the beginning, the community of White Mesa was enthusiastic about the renovation. Local relatives arranged fundraisers to start the project, but monetary support was short-lived. Ultimately Patrick and his wife Mary jointly self-funded the Community Building project and provided the tools, supplies, labor, and equipment. Cindy Covey (Patrick's sister) and her husband provided the electrical wiring and supplies.  

Through Patrick's travels, he has met people from all different walks of life who have helped along the way, and some very kind-hearted people lent their hands to help rebuild this community building.

The restoration of the community building is a tremendous financial commitment for the White Mesa community. As you can see, so much more has to be done to make this a working building!

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FUTURE OF THE COMMUNITY BUILDING

The vision for the Community Building is that our community will come together and work jointly to plan things that will benefit our community, surrounding communities, and communities worldwide. The building will provide a space in our community for social events, community planning,  retirement celebrations, youth development, Diné culture teachings, and much more. 
Once complete, the building will serve as a space for events, and all contributions and donations made for using the building will go toward building our community. 
 

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