Forgotten People (FP) is a non-profit community based organization dedicated to improve the well-being of the Dine’ people who live on the Navajo Nation in Arizona.
Our mission is to help the Dine’ people have access to safe drinking water, sanitation, low-cost housing, solar electrification, sustainable agriculture, and economic development. FP focuses on community wide identification of needs and then works with each community to engage them to solve their problems.
FP’s methodology teaches people to change from reactive to proactive to take control of their destiny.What are achieved are not just immediate tangible benefits, such as access to piped safe water, but intangible benefits such as, enhanced community standing with agencies and increased self esteem.
FP serves Indigenous peoples living on over 2 million acres in the western portion of the Navajo Nation, Arizona including Black Falls, Box Springs, Leupp, Tolani Lake, Gray Mountain, Van Zee, Moenave, Tuba City, Coal Mine, Tonalea, Wildcat Peak, Bodaway/Gap, Cedar Ridge, Big Mountain, Black Mesa, New Lands and other communities impacted by the Bennett Freeze and relocation.
The communities served by the FP are some of the most traditional in North America, as most people speak only their Dine’, practice their traditional religion, and survive via subsistence sheep herding and weaving as they have for hundreds of years.
FP approaches development using a participatory methodology which strives to empower communities and ensures that they own and control the ‘methods and drivers’ of their sustainable development agendas. FP works with partners to find shared solutions to development problems.
Our approach uses a community participatory approach which we call Grassroots Driven Development (GDD).In GDD, the central community force is a grassroots organization, which is a non-governmental entity organized within the local community where a project takes place often in response to the particular problem to be addressed by the development effort. Grassroots organizations typically provide an effective means by which the people most directly affected by a project can participate in the effort.
This approach is unique and utilizes a participatory “bottom-up” model for community development. These tools and approaches were used through throughout the water project and define the unique advantage of our organization.Strategies and tools for grassroots participation in development have evolved as a key part of the field of development theory and practices.
The project also served as a healing role for the community in response to the damage done by 43 years of the Bennett Freeze, which prohibited families in the area from performing any repairs or improvements on their homes. The impact of this government policy on the social fabric of the community may have been even more destructive than on the housing infrastructure, as it destroyed the personal agency needed to maintain healthy communities. Joining together in the planning and implementation of a large project helped restore this health.
The community organizing philosophy for the Black Falls water project was based on Paulo Freire’s statement that”it is essential for the oppressed to realize that when they accept the struggle for humanization they also accept, from that moment, their total responsibility for the struggle” (Freire,1970).Freire’s philosophy guided the organizers from FP, so that the people learned to take proactive responsibility for their community and to use partnerships to assist them in providing the services that were needed. Becoming the agents of their own development had the properties of Amyrata Sen’s instrumental freedoms, in that it provided both intrinsic value and a tool to achieve the other project goals.
FP’s approach also involved a multi-displinary approach to problem solving in that interlink ages were explored, such as health effects of uranium contamination.FP’s unique way of partnering with both federal and Navajo Nation agencies provides a holistic and cooperative approach to problem solving.FP calls this partnership synergy where what is accomplished by working together is greater than what each individual organization can achieve on its own.
Forgotten People is a 501c(3) non-profit public charity under 7 Directions Environmental Network and is incorporated on the Navajo Nation