‘Batteries Are Pricey’: Light Up Navajo Delivers Electricity for Matron

Special to the Times | Krista Allen
Elizabeth B. Begay displays some of her crafts.

Published June 9, 2019

MARGARET ARCH-WHITE MESA, Ariz. — Using light from a kerosene or oil lamp late at night, Elizabeth B. Begay makes intricate dreamcatcher earrings and other handmade jewelry.

Some nights, she uses up all the fuel. “I used to weave too, burning the midnight oil,” the 63-year-old businesswoman said in an interview in Navajo, “but I don’t do that anymore. “Now, I will be making jewelry day in, day out,” she said. “I’m usually sitting here making jewelry. This is the reason why I want electricity.”

All her life Begay had neither electricity nor running water. The homes of her parents and grandparents weren’t connected to the electrical grid and didn’t have running water.

“Me and my siblings grew up with my late grandmother in this area,” she said. “We used Coleman lanterns that required pumping to maintain sufficient pressure for brightness during nighttime. My grandmother took care of us when we were children and we didn’t even realize there was such thing as electricity.”

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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