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Navajo Nation Home Construction Begins on Former Bennett Freeze Area

Ryan Williams/Navajo-Hopi Observer

The Navajo Nation has broken ground on three dozen modular homes in an area where development has been off limits for decades. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’s an effort by tribal officials to revive the economy on more than 1.5 million acres known as the Former Bennett Freeze.

All construction in the area was halted in 1966 by former Bureau of Indian Affairs commissioner Robert Bennett. It arose from a dispute between the Navajo and Hopi tribes, and prevented residents from making even simple repairs and improvements to homes. The freeze was lifted in 2009 by President Obama, but the area still suffers from high unemployment and poverty.

The tribe allocated $3 million earlier this year for home construction, 45 renovations, and to process more 54 home-site leases.

Navajo President Russell Begaye says the tribe is making up for past wrongs imposed by the federal government, and hopes to continue development in the area.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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