For Some Teens, America Is a Third-World Country
Decaying infrastructure hits reservations especially hard
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2010 9:24 AM CST
Sandbags surround the tribal center on the Hoh Indian Reservation, Dec. 9, 2008.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(Newser) – America's deteriorating infrastructure may not be immediately noticeable to you—but take a walk on an Indian reservation, and that will soon change. In the Daily Beast, Eliza Griswold profiles EJ Montoya, 16, one of 400 students who battles sometimes impassable roads and numerous other obstacles just to get to school each day—for him, a 30-mile commute to Albuquerque that takes two to three hours. He lives in a trailer in a litter-strewn area Griswold compares to a refugee camp. "Kids do drugs because they have nothing to do," says Montoya, who signs up for extracurricular activities just to stay off the reservation.

"Indian people are wards of the state," says New Mexico's Indian Affairs Secretary. "The government is responsible for projects like supplying running water and electricity to reservations, where, even at the beginning of the 21st century, there is none at all." New Mexico needs one billion dollars to address issues like those on its reservations. For now, teens like Montoya have the Native American Community Academy, a charter school aimed at bringing Native American kids together. But even there, students are crammed into temporary buildings, waiting for red tape to be cleared before construction can begin on a new, better site.