Curtis Yanito is a Navajo artist and longtime resident of Blanding running to represent District 3 on the school board. One of Yanito’s primary concerns is the allocation of federal funds for schools and businesses inside the Navajo reservation.
“That side is San Juan County, and this side is Navajo,” he said. “The funds that need to be addressed, it all evolves across that area over there and the schools over there.”
The imbalance of funds, Yanito believes, makes it hard to cultivate businesses and education systems on the reservation.
“You don’t see a lot of businesses on a reservation,” he said. “It’s like we are on a ball-and-chain, that we are constantly looked over.”
He believes this economic stagnation is why many of the children who leave after their schooling, rarely return.
“I look at all of the kids like equal resources,” he said. “It seems like we just teach our kids to move away from here. Once they graduate, they never come back.”
Yanito sees opportunity in modern technology such as smartphones, as a solution to this problem. Utilizing these resources, he believes, can expand the capabilities of residents living on the reservation – making business and schooling prospects more appealing to outsiders.
“Technology is here,” he said. “We can start business and we can start employment, we can communicate with outside sources out there.”
Yanito finds that this potential extends into broader industry development for the reservation.
“We can do irrigation here and do a lot of tourism business development here,” he said. “A lot of the engineering businesses need to come around here to correct a lot of the problem areas in this area.”
None of this, however, is possible without first acknowledging the significant divide that splits the reservation from the rest of the district, Yanito contends.
“I know that there’s funds out there, but it just seems like it just stops right there – where the border’s at,” he said. “Growing up here, you know, this is like a world away from society.”
Yanito hopes that, if elected, he may better allocate funds to the reservation to create
economic and educational opportunity for future generations of Navajo.