Navajo seek to buck ‘brain drain’

Tim Goral's picture
Monday, February 3, 2014

Brown University alum Dana Eldridge could have sought employment in a big city on the East Coast. But she wanted to avoid becoming another statistic in what some call the Navajo Nation’s “brain drain” — the flight of the nation's brightest and most successful young people from their homeland.

So now Eldridge finds herself roughing it on the reservation. The 27-year-old can’t find her own place to live, because of the Navajo's complicated land-leasing system. So she’s couch-crashing with friends and relatives.

Eldridge is a private consultant on Native American policy issues, but she has no office space. Even so, she remains determined. “I want to be here, and I want to be involved in what’s going on,” she said.

Eldridge is not alone. Many of those who buck a trend of young, talented people leaving the reservation by returning home after university encounter a dearth of opportunities for professional development. Now many are agitating for changes in policy that they say will allow them to create the businesses and jobs they — and the rest of the reservation — so desperately need.

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