April 17, 2007

Navajo inventor and family to get ‘Makeover’ home


Garrett Yazzie, a Navajo Nation teenager who invented a solar
heater to power his Pinon home at 13, was to receive a new home this
weekend, courtesy of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Yazzie and family will get a new home in a matter of days thanks to the
work of about 800 volunteers. The Yazzies left Tuesday on a “vacation” and
will return Tuesday to a new residence on the final day of taping by the
ABC network. The program will air as the season premiere in August or

HomeLife Communities will build Yazzie and his family a “green” house that
is in harmony with the Navajo principles of honoring Father Sky and Mother
Earth, according to Kristine Thomas, Equal Employment Opportunity
coordinator and tribal liaison for the Governor’s Office of Equal

The current home of Georgia, Garalene, Garrett and Gwendolyn Yazzie is 150
miles northeast of Flagstaff in the middle of high desert. It is an old,
broken-down single-wide trailer, plagued with problems. It has no running
water, holes in the floors and ceiling, no insulation, no working
bathrooms, a broken water heater, limited electricity, no phone line and
boarded-up windows, Thomas said, quoting a HomeLife Web posting.

Garrett Yazzie earned acclaim when he came up with a method to heat his
family’s trailer. The invention was born of necessity, as youngest sister
Gwendolyn suffers from severe asthma and epilepsy. Burning coal to warm the
house during the cold winter months was not an option because it placed
Gwendolyn at risk.

Yazzie took it upon himself to become the man of the house. With the help
of the Internet and several online mentors, Garrett paid tribute to the
Navajo principles of sustainable living, living off the land, and leaving
no waste by creating a heating system made of an old car transmission and
aluminum cans.

This invention not only warmed the house for his sisters and his mother,
but it turned Yazzie into a “junkyard genius” with numerous national and
local honors, awards and recognition.

ASU plans to announce the Garrett Yazzie Rising Star Scholarship Fund for
Native American Students attending the university. In addition, Yazzie will
be presented with a Presidential Scholarship to attend ASU when the family
returns Tuesday.

The scholarship will be for any Indian student attending ASU who
demonstrates a strong entrepreneurial spirit and/or interest in math and
sciences, spokeswoman Jaynie Parrish said.

Guidelines will be worked out with the family. The endowment will take time
to build and is not an individual fund for Yazzie, but instead would go to
any Indian student and benefit a larger community.

The chain of events began last summer, when the family visited with Parrish
and former Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah, now adviser to ASU
President Michael Crow on American Indian affairs. They toured ASU and
visited with several faculty and staff members. Yazzie entered the science
fair through the American Indian Programs’ annual science fair and youth
programs at the Polytechnic Campus.

Zah and Pinon community members nominated the family for the show.

Taping began Tuesday, with a knock on the door of the Yazzie trailer and
the notification that they were to take a vacation. The next day, workers
moved the trailer off its lot, and Thursday, the new foundation was poured
and a blessing given.

Construction was to conclude Sunday, with work on the interior taking place
today. The family is to return Tuesday and move into their new home

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