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The Light Fantastic in Tonalea

The Light Fantastic in Tonalea
September 13
09:40 2022

The Light Fantastic in Tonalea

By John Christian Hopkins

Some 70 years ago country music star Hank Williams had a hit record called “I Saw the Light.” Now several families in Tonalea, Ariz., can join in the singing.

On September 2 Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Council Delegate Paul Begay joined with residents and local leaders in Tonalea to mark the successful completion of powerline extensions to 18 homes for families that reside in the region known as Preston Mesa.

Many of those families have lived their entire lives without electricity!

“Progress and change are happening on the Navajo Nation. The completion of the powerlines is life-changing for the 18 families who now have electricity in their homes, the majority being elders,” Nez said. “This effort began at the local level when residents, such as Angelita Nez, began the groundwork and advocated for the powerline extensions. They worked with Delegate Paul Begay and our Administration to make this happen.”

In September 2021, Nez finalized a sub-grant agreement between the Navajo Nation and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to begin the powerline extensions, which were funded through the Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) program, Tonalea Chapter, and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.

“(The families) exemplify the teachings of our elders, T’áá Hwó Ají Téego or self-reliance and self-determination. We are proud of this accomplishment and congratulate all of the families,” Nez added.

Nez also spoke about the importance of building and improving the Nation’s infrastructure to provide long-term benefits for communities and families.

In 2019, Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer also approved $3 million for the design and construction of a new chapter house for the community of Tonalea, which was completed last year and now serves the community.

During the ceremony, several of the residents expressed their appreciation to the leaders, NTUA, and longtime resident, Angelita Nez, who was the driving force behind the project.

Angelita Nez recalled that after recovering from COVID-19 during the first wave of the virus, she returned home after being hospitalized and began researching and gathering documents to support the powerline project.

In November 2020, she sent an email to NTUA officials and President Nez describing the needs of the residents along with supporting documents including a past resolution from Tonalea Chapter.

NTUA crews began the groundwork in March and completed the 18 new powerlines in June.

Delegate Begay said the project is a blessing for the residents and community of Tonalea. He added that under current leadership, progress is being made with electrifying homes, connecting communities to water lines, and other improvements.

“This is a blessing for the elders who have lived in this remote area without power for far too long. I am very thankful to the residents, President Nez, and NTUA for coming together to deliver this service to our people,” Begay said.

Since 2020, over 1,000 homes on the Navajo Nation have been connected to electricity. 

The Light Fantastic in Tonalea - overview

Summary: The Light Fantastic in Tonalea


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