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In 2020, during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Zoel Zohnnie was feeling restless. Growing up on the Navajo Nation, he said, the importance of caring for family and community was instilled at an early age. So Zohnnie wanted to find a way to help members of his tribe. One need in particular stood out: water.
American Indian and Alaska Native households are 3.7 times as likely to lack complete plumbing as households whose members do not identify as Indigenous or Black, according to a 2019 mapping report on plumbing poverty in the United States.
“Climate change and excessive water use is exacerbating these struggles,” explained George McGraw, CEO of DigDeep. “Much of the western United States has been in severe drought for years. Many rivers and wells on or near the Navajo land have dried up. As groundwater recedes, people are forced to seek water from unsafe sources.”
To answer that need, Zohnnie began hauling water to people who were without, and he founded Water Warriors United. In this episode, listeners come along for the ride as he ― and his truck ― make one herculean trek across snow-covered roads in New Mexico.
Episode 6 is an exploration of the root causes behind the Navajo Nation’s water accessibility challenges and a story about the water rights that some communities have effectively lost.
Voices from the episode:
Dr. Ernestine Chaco, emergency medicine physician and lawyer — TwitterBrianna Johnson, community health representative with the Naschitti Chapter, Navajo NationGeorge McGraw, CEO of DigDeep — LinkedIn, Instagram, TwitterJeanette Wolfley, assistant professor of law at the University of New Mexico — LinkedInZoel Zohnnie, founder of Collective Medicine and actor — TikTok
Season 4 of “American Diagnosis” is a co-production of KHN and Just Human Productions.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LowerMyRx.