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Know the West

Worlds converge in energy's shadow


Located on a dusty mesa above the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico, Alice Benally’s home on the Navajo Reservation sits less than a mile away from the massive smokestacks of the Four Corners power plant.

For four decades, the electrons generated by the plant’s steam-propelled turbines zipped past her lantern-lit home on their way to air conditioners and televisions in Arizona, California and Texas. It wasn’t until December of last year that Benally, along with a handful of others in her community, finally received electricity. It wasn’t as simple as tapping into the plant’s generators, though; it took more than two years to install power lines and infrastructure. Over one-third of the homes on the reservation still lack power.

The plant employs more than 500 people, many of them Navajos. Nearly half the residents of the Nenahnezad Chapter, where the plant is located, live below the poverty line; 18 percent of the homes lack indoor plumbing, and 42 percent have no telephones. But the native culture endures: Sixty-six percent of the chapter’s residents speak Navajo in their homes.

This June, photographer Jared Boyd visited Benally, and met her mother, aunt and niece, none of whom were willing to give their names. He documented a day in the life of Navajos living in the shadow of the Four Corners power plant.