By Louis Martin, RCAC staff writer

For the first time, the Navajo Nation will have access to a unified address system, the lack of which has traditionally been a serious problem for the Native community.

The project was a result of a partnership between both private and public entities. The Rural Utah Project (RUP) partnered with Google, who developed a free program called “Plus Codes.”. Plus Codes was originally envisioned as a tool for developing countries to use Google Maps, even in places where addresses were unavailable. The program was used in India and Somalia, where inhabitants without addresses cannot access government services or even open bank accounts.

Native American reservations often lack unified addresses, which has serious ramifications beyond postal and shipping issues. The lack of addresses causes issues with census counts, redistricting, and even voter registration. Residents have trouble even obtaining basic documentation like driver’s licenses. This has resulted in Native American Tribes being under represented at the ballot box for decades.

RUP acted as a liaison between the Navajo Nation and Google, hiring field staff who spoke the Navajo language to visit more than 5,000 structures. Now, those field staff have returned with actual address signs, wallet cards, and even fridge magnets for the community to begin distributing. The San Juan County Clerk’s Office is even planning to adopt Plus Codes into its voter system.

Google ultimately plans to make the Plus Codes system available on any Google Maps app and feels its address system is actually more precise than traditional ones.

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