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Navajo Reservation in New Mexico is Far From Wired World

Aired April 17, 2000 - 2:26 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: And a bit later today, the president will visit a Navajo Indian reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico. Many people there don't even have a telephone. While he's visiting, Mr. Clinton will announce a plan to get Native Americans phone service for only $1 a month.

CNN's Kelly Wallace visited the Navajo reservation, this ahead of the president's trip.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shiprock in northwestern New Mexico, in Navajo, the rock with wings, part of the vast Navajo Indian reservation -- big, open sky, picturesque, and so very poor.

More than one-half of all Navajos live in poverty, and nearly half don't have jobs. The economic boom hasn't made its way here, and if the technology comes, it comes slowly. Wilhelmina Clah is a teacher and a mom.

WILHELMINA CLAH, NAVAJO TEACHER: Sometimes it just gets so frustrating. You -- there are times you want to give up.

WALLACE: But she doesn't. She holds out hope for her 12-year- old daughter, Darragh. At the Boys and Girls Club, Darragh and her friends can do what they can't do at home: go online, thanks to a donation of 20 computers from the corporate-backed Power Up Foundation. Darragh wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, and the Internet has already come in handy with her studies.

DARRAGH CLAH, NAVAJO STUDENT: I learned about dogs, animals, subjects I needed to know that will help me out with my science projects.

WALLACE: But Darragh represents the minority. Eight out of 10 who live in Indian country still don't have access to the Internet.

(on camera): The poverty here isn't the only reason the reservation hasn't been able to go high-tech. The other is infrastructure. Only twenty percent of the homes have telephones, and it costs tens of thousands of dollars to install new lines in these remote areas. (voice-over): The elders say the younger Navajos who go on to college will be key to developing the infrastructure for phones and the Internet. But the elders know the young will only come back if there are good jobs.

AL MARTINEZ, PRES., SHIPROCK BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB: Economic development is big on the agenda now. We need to promote more outside enterprise. With that in mind that would give us more leverage, that would bring in more technology.

WALLACE: As one day sets on the Navajo reservation, the hope is the next one will bring this majestic but isolated place closer to the benefits of the wired world beyond.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, Shiprock.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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