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In 1966 the commissioner on Indian Affairs, Robert Bennett, outlawed development on a 1.6-million-acre tract of tribal land in northeastern Arizona that was claimed by both the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. Known as the “Bennett Freeze,” the decree was meant to prevent either tribe from taking advantage of the other while they settled the dispute. It made it illegal for the 8,000 or so Navajos scattered across the region to erect or repair homes, build roads, or connect to basic services like electricity and running water. 

The land dispute dragged on,  the development ban was signed into law, and the people lived frozen in a state of poverty rarely seen in America. After 43 of the “Bennett Freeze” the Navajos and Hopis settled their differences in 2009, and in May, President Obama officially repealed the law, clearing the way for federal funding to help rehabilitate the area. But no money has come so far, and little rebuilding has begun.

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