One Navajo 6th Grader's Bumpy, Three-Hour School Commute
Calling the pickup truck that runs through the Navajo Nation in Black Mesa, Arizona, to the Black Mesa Community School a “bus” may be a stretch. And calling the 119 miles of muddy path a “road” is misleading. Yet, that’s the only way Gunner, a Navajo Nation 6th-grader, gets to and from school every day. Each trip totals up to three hours.
A short film from videographer Jeremy Meek follows Gunner’s daily journey, documenting the bumpy—dangerous,even—ride the 13-year-old endures every day starting at 5 a.m. The “bus” traverses through puddles and unpaved roads, sometimes getting stuck so badly that a second truck has to come pull it out. When it pours, Gunner says in the video, the bus doesn’t come to his home.
But as Meek notes, Gunner’s case isn’t unique. He’s one of 85,000 students who use Navajo Nation’s unpaved tribal roads to get to school. More than three-quarters of the Navajo Nation’s 14,000-mile road network remains unpaved. And while repairing those roads alone will cost $7.9 billion, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has budgeted just $24 million to maintain over 30,000 miles of roads across all tribes.