St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School is located in Thoreau, NM, a rural area on the southeastern edge of the Navajo Nation. Thoreau sits at an altitude of about 7,200 feet, five miles east of the continental divide and about 110 miles west of Albuquerque between Grants and Gallup. More than 80 percent of Thoreau's population of nearly 4,500 is Native American.
The Navajo Nation covers an area of 27,000 square miles in three southwestern states (New Mexico, Arizona and Utah) and is three times larger than the state of Vermont. The eastern portion of the Navajo Nation is located in the vast, arid, high desert region of northwestern New Mexico.
The high altitudes make for hot, waterless summers and cold, harsh winters. In this dry and almost barren environment one of the greatest needs is water which is very scarce and therefore very precious. Wood used for heat and cooking is also limited.
Over 275,000 people make up the Navajo Nation. The large areas of land needed to support the traditional economy of sheep and cattle herding led people to settle far apart from each other. Now, in modern times, their remote geographical location often puts them far from economic opportunity.
Unemployment hovers around 67 percent and poverty is pervasive. Residents of the Eastern Navajo Nation served by the Mission are at the bottom of the economic ladder and St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School works cooperatively with more than 10 local Navajo agencies to serve those most in need.