Navajo Nation President
Diné people recently recognized Gháájí’, signifying a shift in our seasons and a symbol of renewal in our lives. It is time for our people to prepare for the changing of the weather and seasons – this is also an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our lives and to renew our hope for ourselves, our family, and our communities.
This notion holds true for the leadership that will soon occupy the White House, as U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and their transition team prepares for a new beginning.
With the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, our Diné people and many across our country look forward to the restoration of hope, unity, and healing.
On January 20, 2021, our people will be able to move forward from the divisiveness, misinformation, and discrimination that set us back for the past four years. Come inauguration day, our families, children, elders, veterans, disabled and special needs individuals, and many others will be treated with respect and dignity by those in the White House.
In early October, I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to highlight the need for federal partners to work with the Navajo Nation to move forward with infrastructure development projects to provide clean water, electricity, broadband, and roads for our Nation. I also spoke about the need to improve the health care system for tribes to improve health disparities, supporting economic development and recovery, educational priorities, remediating uranium mining sites, water rights settlements, solid waste management, and improving public safety. I believe their invitation to the table is more than others have offered the Nation for a number of years.
The Biden-Harris team has put forth the “Plan for Tribal Nations,” which states that they are committed to upholding the U.S.’s trust responsibility to tribal nations, strengthening the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Indian tribes, and working to empower tribal nations to govern their own communities and make their own decisions.”
The plan also states that the Biden-Harris Administration will reinstate the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, appoint Native Americans to high-level government positions, appoint judges who understand federal Indian law, ensure fulfillment of federal trust and treaty obligations, promote meaningful tribal consultation, defend the Indian Child Welfare Act, and strengthen self-governance.
Since then, I have also called for Mr. Biden and Mrs. Harris to appoint at least one tribal leader to their transition team and to various positions within their cabinet and federal agencies – this would be a step forward in addressing the past broken promises from the federal government.
With the COVID-19 pandemic surging throughout the country and here on the Navajo Nation, the Biden-Harris team has already created a COVID-19 task force, known as the COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board, composed of medical and scientific experts, among others, who have the professional background and expertise to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
President-elect Biden has also called on all Americans to wear masks at all times in public, a mandate that the Navajo Nation has had in place since April 17, 2020. These are the types of measures that will set a new tone in this country and help to overcome this pandemic that has taken the lives of over 225,000 American people, including over 595 of our own Diné people as of Nov. 11.
We have to be resilient and united in our fight against this invisible monster known as COVID-19. The Creator has given us the armor and weapons, such as face masks, to help us in this fight. To wear a mask is not a sign of weakness – wearing a mask makes you a warrior because you are helping to protect your family and your people.
We must also yield to professionals – physicians and researchers - who know and understand COVID-19 and its impact on the people. The teachings of our elders are also key to overcoming adversities and maintaining hope and faith. Through the practice of T’áá hwó’ ajít’éego, or self-reliance and self-determination, we are stronger and more capable of persevering and prospering.
We have faced many challenges recently, but we, as the First People of this country, must move forward with renewed hope, faith, and unity to heal our country. May God watch over all of our Diné people during the upcoming winter season and bless us with many new opportunities for the future. Ahe’hee’
Jonathan Nez is the 9th and current president of the Navajo Nation. He was elected President of the Navajo Nation on November 6, 2018. Before his election, Nez served as Vice President from 2015 until his inauguration in early January 2019. At 43 years of age, Nez is the youngest person to have ever been elected President of the Navajo Nation.