Navajos Born at Home Find It Hard to Get Birth Certificates
Most Americans born in this country have a birth certificate issued from a hospital. But, for a lot of Navajos born in remote areas of the Navajo Nation before the 1970’s, it was common to be born at home. So, getting a birth certificate later - otherwise known as a “delayed birth certificate” - can be very difficult. That’s especially true in Arizona because of its strict regulations.
Recently, she helped an elderly Navajo gentleman, Bennie Bedane, who drove over an hour and a half to get to her office. For Bedane to even have a chance of getting his birth certificate, he needs to prove that he was born in Arizona.
He says he was, in 1934, at home, far from any hospital. “From where I lived, it’s about 60 miles,” Bedane says. “Dirt roads, no paved. But mostly wagons. It takes days.”
Bedane has his Navajo Census record, but that’s just one document. Matilda Perdue says he needs many more. “He would need to provide 4, 5, maybe 6 documents with the same name, the same date of birth, the same mother’s name, and the same father’s name all across these documents,” she says.
And this is where confusion comes in because first and last names were sometimes changed later. That’s what happened to Bedane when he joined the army during the Korean War. “I went to change my name,” he says. “But the Census Office don’t have that record. That’s not right.”
With out the right documents, these people will be denied the benefits they have earned by working all their lives. And denied the right to vote. Takes a lot of nerve to question the American-ness of a Navajo.
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