FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — For Navajos born in remote areas of the Navajo Nation,
getting a birth certificate to access retirement and health benefits has been a
struggle under Arizona’s strict regulations.
Most residents born before the 1970s were commonly delivered at home without
any hospital-issued birth certificate, KNAU-FM reported. Many of those residents today can obtain a “delayed birth certificate,” but
not without proper documentation.
Officials said sometimes as many as six documents, including a Navajo Census
record, are required in Arizona. It’s also harder for some people who may have
changed their first or last name.
Lena Fowler, the only Navajo on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors,
devotes two days a month in her Tuba City office to people who need a birth
certificate. Those days always bring lines, Fowler said. Many people have become
frustrated by the process. She said some people have told her that they spent
decades trying to get the certificate. The holdup prompted her to contact state
officials a year ago with calls and emails.
“It took a while … for the state to acknowledge that there was actually an
issue that Native Americans were having a very difficult time obtaining their
birth certificates,” Fowler said.
Some residents of the Navajo Nation, which includes parts of New Mexico and
Utah, said the rules are the most stringent in Arizona. The rules on obtaining
delayed birth certificates have remained the same for 25 years. State Department
of Health Director Will Humble said the state may update its policy and slash
the number of necessary documents.
“The efforts that we’re going through now would give the county health
departments clear guidance about what kind of tribal documents would get
applicants delayed birth certificates,” Humble said. “But right now, that
guidance doesn’t exist.”
His hope is that a new policy would cut down on the paperwork and apply to all
22 tribes in Arizona.
“What we hope this will do is make it a one stop shop,” Humble said.
Information from: KNAU-FM, http://www.knauradio.org/