By Myra Saturen
July 07, 2014
Northampton Community College (NCC) journalism major Larissa Jimmy always knew how important livestock is in Arizona, where she was raised and family members own cattle. But she hadn't heard about the plight of roaming horses until Candace Begody, editor-in-chief of the Navajo Times, assigned her the story last summer. Published in Window Rock, Arizona, the newspaper is a major weekly in the region.
Jimmy's article, "Drought Takes Heavy Toll on Roaming Horses," has just earned her an Arizona Press Club award and is also being considered for a prize from the Native American Journalists Association.
Jimmy reported on the devastating effect of an eight-year drought on roaming horses in Chinle, Arizona. Relying on massive amounts of water to survive, these animals are perishing as their watering holes and pools of storm-water dry up. Some horses become stuck in quicksand that has formed from desiccated clay.
To gather information, Jimmy rode in a truck over bumpy, rocky terrain with grazing officials Eugene Tso and Steven Tsosie. What she saw horrified her: dead horses, surrounded by dried mud, in a barbed wire enclosure (to keep other horses out). "It was surreal," she says. "I thought, 'how could this be happening?' " At another site, she came upon frail, skinny horses near two windmills and a parched trough. "I could hear the horses hitting the trough with their hooves, trying to dig for water," she says. "The horses could hear water in the windmills, but they couldn't get to it." Photographs Jimmy took of a foal at the side of an emaciated mare and a horse with its face and lower body stuck in clay illustrate the tragedy. She reported that some livestock owners are hauling water-if there is any left over after caring for their own animals-to the thirsty roaming horses.
Jimmy first came to Northampton in 2011 as a participant in an intercultural exchange program with Diné College, a Navajo tribal college, in Tsaile, Arizona. Impressed with NCC's journalism program, she enrolled here and took advantage of opportunities to write and take photographs for the student newspaper The Commuter and to work in the College's Public Information Office. On a visit home to her family in Chinle last summer, she landed an internship as a reporter at the Navajo Times, writing five stories a week, including "Drought Takes Heavy Toll on Roaming Horses."
Jimmy is grateful for the knowledge she has gained from her experiences in Arizona and Pennsylvania and for the Dine College exchange program. "It built a bridge for me," she says. "I saw that things could happen, that I could travel here and there. I've learned from everyone." In particular, she mentions Rob Hays, associate professor of journalism; Heidi Butler, director of public information; and Mario Acerra, professor of theatre/communications. When writing her award-winning article, she drew upon all she had mastered through her studies and work.
The most important result of her article, she says, is not the award itself, but the attention she hopes it will bring to the suffering horses. "I hope people will read it and provide help," she said.