The stated purpose of this study was to facilitate Navajos through a process of determining for themselves what poverty is, what indicators determine well-being, and what factors contribute to the phenomenon of poverty on the Navajo Indian reservation. The study used a Q-Squared Participatory Poverty Assessment to gain a better understanding of how the Navajo culture and Navajo people themselves view and operationalize wealth and poverty. Semi-structured participatory interviews performed with 22 Navajo Indians, in the reservation communities of Chinle, Arizona, and San Juan, New Mexico, discussed and determined what it means to be poor in Navajo households and communities, and defined various levels of well- being on the reservation. The analysis provided themes which comprised four stages of poverty description: definitional, summative, experiential, and derivational. The main findings of the analysis and description process were that (1) wealth and poverty are defined by a combination of non- material assets and non-income material assets, rather than income, and that the most important of these are family and cultural values; (2) based on these established indicators of well-being, the Navajo do not see themselves as poor; (3) the difficulties experienced on the reservation include extrinsic factors in control of the state, while the benefits of reservation living are primarily intrinsic factors at individual levels; (4) there is a generational devaluation of Navajo values occurring on the reservation, where the Navajo consider themselves wealthy on account of their rich cultural heritage, but this decline in cultural values constitutes a "cultural recession" and an increase of own poverty on the reservation; and (5) this cultural devaluation and increase of poverty is caused by factors of instrumental and imperialistic education and globalization.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Leadership and Foundations



Date Submitted


Document Type





Navajo Nation, poverty, education, development, globalization, human rights, participatory poverty assessment