Navajo Nation President Addresses Arizona State Legislature on Issues Facing the Navajo

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Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez addressed the Arizona State Legislature and tribal leaders at the Arizona State Capitol last Wednesday as part of the 27th Indian Nations and Tribes Annual Legislative Day.

Nez, joined by First Lady Phefelia Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer, spoke about the contributions of the Navajo people during the COVID-19 pandemic, voting rights, efforts to locate missing persons and India’s law on child protection, among other topics.

“Throughout this pandemic, just as our elders did long ago in times of adversity, our Navajo people continue to step up and demonstrate the strength and resilience of our ancestors,” Nez said in his speech. “We continue to use our lifestyle teachings, the teachings of our elders, to ward off COVID-19.”

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When the pandemic began, Navajo leaders distributed PPE, food, water, firewood and other essentials to their communities, Nez said. “We stood shoulder to shoulder with our frontline warriors and showed them that we love them, care about them and are in this together.”

Nez called for a minute’s silence in the Arizona House of Representatives to honor frontline workers and Navajos who died during the pandemic, including the former Navajo Nation President and Senator and Rep. ArizonaAlbert Hale. Hale died nearly a year ago of complications from COVID-19.

“Despite the grief and loss of loved ones, our Navajo people continue to fight,” Nez said.

He noted that 72.5% of people in the Navajo Nation are vaccinated against COVID-19 with two doses of a vaccine. Among people aged 65 and over, 87% are vaccinated with two doses. “It shows that our elders continue to lead the way and set a great example for our people,” he said.

Nez also urged state lawmakers to support native suffrage.

“Many of our seniors and those who live in remote communities have to travel hundreds of miles and many hours to vote, and when they get to the polls they face language barriers as many are only fluent in the language. Navajo. “, said Nez. “We need electoral laws that respect and protect the right to vote of all citizens.

Nez highlighted the Navajo Nation’s investments in infrastructure development to improve Navajo families’ access to clean water and electricity. With funds from the 2020 CARES Act, they were able to extend water lines and connect more than 700 homes to the power grid, he said. He called on heads of state to support Navajo Nation water rights.

He also highlighted efforts to help locate missing persons undertaken by grassroots organizations, task forces, First Lady Nez and Second Lady Dottie Lizer. The Navajo Nation is developing a Missing Persons Unit to devote more resources to locating missing Navajo siblings, Nez said.

Nez sought the support of the Legislature to pass an Indian Child Welfare Bill to support tribes in custody cases involving children enrolled in Navajo tribes.

He also called on state leaders to submit letters to the Arizona Corporation Commission in support of community coal transition funding for the Navajo Nation, in response to the 2019 closure of the Navajo power plant and mine. Kayenta.

Nez acknowledged and thanked various Navajo state leaders, including Sen. Theresa Hatathlie, who was sworn in last Monday to represent Arizona’s seventh legislative district, former state Rep. Arlando Teller, who accepted a position as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs with the U.S. Department. of Transportation under the Biden-Harris administration, and Quincy Natay, superintendent of the Chinle Unified School District, who was recently recognized as Arizona Superintendent of the Year.

He also recognized Navajo State Representative Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, who filled the position vacated by Teller to represent District 7. Finally, he thanked Myron Tsosie, who is serving his second term as State Representative. for District 7.

“On behalf of the Navajo Nation, I thank you all,” Nez said. “We are very proud to have so many young Navajos serving and representing us in these high positions.”

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