Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

A former Navajo Nation leader and Arizona state lawmaker is being remembered for his years of service and many contributions to his tribe.

Albert Hale died Tuesday of complications from the coronavirus, according to the Navajo Nation. He was 70.

In 1995, Hale became just the second person ever elected to serve as Navajo Nation president. He held the position until 1998, when he stepped down.

Six years later, the Democrat was elected to the Arizona Legislature, representing a district that includes much of the reservation. He served in the state Senate from 2004 to 2011 and the House from 2011 to 2017.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez called Hale a “great leader, a loving family man and my brother.”

“Throughout his lifetime, he demonstrated his love and compassion for our people through his services and all of his great contributions,” Nez said in a statement. “He stood strong on many issues and left the world a better place than he found it.”

Navajo Nation House Speaker Seth Damon said Hale is “remembered for his service and dedication to the Navajo people.”

“We recognize his positive contributions to the development of numerous initiatives that have advanced the causes of Navajo People both at home and abroad,” Damon said.

The Arizona House Democrats called the loss of Hale “devastating” and said “our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”

Navajo Nation Council highlighted Hale’s work as chair of the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission and his efforts on the San Juan River Basin Water Right Settlement Agreement.

Hale also served as Navajo Nation assistant attorney general and special counsel to the Navajo Nation Council. Additionally, he served as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Laguna Tribal Court system.

In a statement, the Hale family said the Navajo Nation “knew him as Ahbihay, but we knew him as a loving and supportive dad and husband.”

“He deeply cared for our Diné Nation and people,” the statement said. “His contributions were immense, and we know that his work as a leader and lawyer impacted so many lives.”

Hale was born in Ganado in 1950 and raised in Klagetoh on the Navajo Nation. He was Áshiihí, born for Tódích’íi’nii. His maternal grandparents were Hónágháahnii, and his paternal grandparents were Kinya’áanii.

Thomas Atcitty, who served as vice president when Hale was president, died in October. Atcitty was interim president after Hale resigned in 1998 rather than face allegations he abused a tribal credit card, according to The Associated Press.

Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer issued a proclamation calling for all flags on the Navajo Nation to be blown half-staff from Wednesday through Saturday in honor of Hale. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags at state buildings to be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset Wednesday in Hale’s honor.

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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

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