ST. GEORGE — At the base of Navajo Mountain is a high school known as one of the most remote in the lower 48 states and the most remote in Utah and the Navajo Nation. The high school, including grades 9 through 12, boasts thirty students this school year. The Color Country Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in St. George, Utah decided to organize a donation drive to collect school supplies, personal products, clothing, food and water for Navajo Mountain High School.
Each year, each DAR chapter, led by the Chapter Regent, may choose a community service project. The DAR chose Navajo Mountain High School this year because it was a school that was both on the Navajo Nation and in Utah. Susan Dransfield, Regent of the St. George Chapter, along with Kim Clark, American Indian Chapter Chair, contacted Gary Rock, principal of the high school.
The high school and surrounding community are at the base of Navajo Mountain, or Naatsis’aan, in Navajo, one of the sacred mountains that define boundaries of the original Navajo Nation. Naatsis’aan dominates the landscape of southern Utah and northern Arizona and can be seen from long distances in many directions. It was used for navigation by people, thousands of years ago. The modern day students of the school most likely can trace their ancestry to some of the ancient navigators.
Dransfield told me that, along with her husband and her sons, her family has been involved with numerous Navajo humanitarian projects. “We do it because we have a special love for the people.”
Clark grew up in a small rural community in Colorado, near the base of Mount Blanca, or Sisnaajini, another sacred mountain to the Navajo. Having done so herself, Clark understands what it’s like to ride a bus for long distances and going to a small, remote school with limited supplies and resources. She willingly took on this project. “It’s always nice to give back to people,” Clark says.
At 10,348 feet above sea level, Navajo Mountain looks more like a dome than a jagged mountain. As the two hour drive from Page brought Clark closer to the community, the geologic features of Naatsis’aan become clear and intricate. Instead of the distant smooth appearance, the mountain is criss-crossed by countless canyons and rock formations of many colors.
Clark, who lives in Page, worked with Dransfield in coordinating the pickup of the donated supplies, which was not only open to members of the DAR but donations were received from the local Colonial Dames chapter. Terry Whitehat of Page donated a box of books for community school students. Since Clark regularly goes to St. George, she agreed to pick up the donations and store them until delivery day. Once the benefit drive was complete, the DAR collected and delivered around $1,700 worth of supplies. Whitehat and Clark’s husband filled the back of a medium size pickup to the ceiling of the camper shell and almost filled the back seat.
Even though the school is in San Juan County, Utah, it’s a long drive from the nearest shopping mall. From St. George to Navajo Mountain High involves driving through a large portion of northern Arizona and the Navajo Nation. As Clark and her husband drove the supplies to the school, on September 1, 2022, the landscape was the greenest any of them had seen in years. It was as if there were a ‘second spring’ this fall, with a variety of flowers adding color to the otherwise green lands including orange globemallow, scarlet paintbrush, white primrose, purple daisies and countless ‘darn yellow composites.’ This year’s dry spring wasn’t as showy as most. It seemed as if the wildflowers were making up for this year’s otherwise insipid spring.
The Navajo Mountain community is small and close-knit. A paved road leads to the community, from Arizona Highway 98 and traverses a varied, scenic, and geologically fascinating area. The nearest gas station and convenience store is about 35 miles away.
The small, modern high school is part of the San Juan County Public Schools. Grades K through 8 are taught in the nearby Community school which is not part of the San Juan school district, but it’s own school. To give an idea of how remote the community is, the nearest hospitals are in either Tuba City, Kayenta, or Page, all in Arizona, and all around 90 minutes away. More specialized care is available in Flagstaff, some three hours away, or St. George, over four hours away. Phoenix and Salt Lake City are each a solid day’s drive, one way. Before the road to the community began to be paved in 1988, it took even longer.
Because of the remoteness and needs of the school, Mr. Rock was humbled and grateful for DAR’s generosity. The DAR plans another benefit drive in the fall focusing on winter clothing, food and blankets. Readers interested in participating in the donation drive are welcome to contact Ms. Clark at [email protected]. Be sure to put “DAR Donation” in the subject line.
Written by Phil Clark.