The Santa Ana Pueblo reservation in New Mexico reminds Daily Beast reporter Eliza Griswold of a refugee camp.
She chronicles the daily commute of 16-year-old E.J. Montoya from his “liter-strewn” area to charter school in Albuquerque, 30-miles south of his reservation. The trip by car, train and city bus takes two to three hours daily due to road obstructions and other obstacles.
Montoya and other reservation teens do what it takes to avoid the nearby public school. “Grown-ups take kids down there to get them drunk,” Montoya said. “Either fix it, or blow it up.”
Griswold compares Montoya’s story to “the unsung tale of America’s crumbling infrastructure—bridges, roads, drinking water, sewage lines, and the list goes on.” Most people never think twice about using these common modes of transportation until they break down, she said.
“Indian people are wards of the state,” said New Mexico’s Indian Affairs Secretary. “The government is responsible for projects like supplying running water and electricity to reservations, where, even at the beginning of the 21st century, there is none at all.”
Hope for teens like Montoya comes from the Native American Community Academy, a charter school for nearly 400 Native American kids from sixth to twelfth grade. But even at the charter school, students pack into temporary buildings, awaiting construction on a better site.