Five ideas from the Navajo Nation (Washington should pay attention)

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

Takeaways: Healthy citizens, junk food taxes, policy by the people, an outreach to governments & safety for Native women

It has been a long week of meeting after meeting, photo after photo, in Washington for the new Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer. The two leaders were sworn into office on less than a month ago, Jan. 15, 2019.

In these Indian Country Today videos President Nez talked about several priorities for the Navajo Nation. "We came to DC to introduce ourselves," President Nez said.

Nez and Lizer both attended the State of the Union address on Tuesday. Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, invited Nez. Lizer went as a guest of Rep. Tom O’Halleran, R-Arizona.

They said it was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” and are grateful they were invited. They talk more about the experience and their thoughts of the address itself. (Nez noticed the absence of Native Americans when Trump touched on the unemployment rates in the country.)

​​Indian Country Today reached out to the public via social media for questions they want answered by the president and vice president.

After a meet-and-greet reception hosted by the Navajo Nation Washington Office, the duo took some time to speak with Indian Country Today.

Even though their time in D.C. is documented on Twitter, Nez talked what he did in the city, who he met with and what was talked about, especially in his new position as president. (He served as vice president before being elected to president.)

​One Navajo citizen wanted to know more about the administration’s efforts regarding missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Question: Will the president be working closely with urban areas like Albuquerque, Gallup and Farmington because of the high rate of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in New Mexico? And how? For example, the First Nations Community Healthsource has a new program that focuses on youth human trafficking victims.

​If you didn’t know, Nez is a health advocate. He ran approximately 300 miles from Fort Sumner, or Bosque Redondo, to the Navajo Nation to commemorate The Long Walk. A time when Navajos were captured, take from their homelands and forced to walk to Bosque Redondo. Many died along the way or were killed, including pregnant women.

A person on Instagram asked: “What specific plans and investments do they plan to make to help ensure healthy, active and fit Navajo youth?” (The nation already has the Diné Healthy Nation Act of 2014, also known as the “junk food tax” in place.) Nez answered that question in the video at the top.

One of the many that Indian Country faces as a whole is substance abuse. Many Native communities are working to tackle it from different angles. During the campaign, Lizer heard it was a commonality in all the communities he and Nez visited.

The question posed to the vice president: How are you going to address alcohol and drug abuse on the Navajo Nation?

Many Navajo citizens, specifically college students or post-graduates, say that jobs are difficult to find with the tribe due to no jobs available or if there is a job, they are overqualified. According to the Navajo Nation Economic Development, the nation has a 42 percent unemployment rate. Lizer, who was and is a businessman, has ideas in mind for jobs on the tribal nation.

A couple community members reported that a few preschools, or head-start programs, near chapter houses closed down for a month after Thanksgiving. There has also been inconsistencies with these early childhood education programs staying open due to bus problems or lack of funding. One person asked how will the administration tackle this.

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter - @jourdanbb. Email -

Comments (3)
No. 1-1

Why wasn't the Navajo delegation posing for photographs with even the lunatic fringe group - "green deal"? The potential for Navajo investments into "green projects" such as Wind Stations and/or a "state-of-the-art" Recycling Waste would help propel the Navajo reservation unemployment of 60% into a NEW DEAL! Instead of just hanging out with DEEP STATE US Congress officials (for handouts), the Navajo delegation could've been expanding into new grounds including hobknobbing with luny Ocasio-Cortez!