Jonathan Nez, Below Portraits of Past Shonto Leaders, takes Oath of Office

Navajo Times | Arlyssa Becenti
Jonathan Nez, 43, takes the oath of office, becoming president of the Navajo Nation at a ceremony today at the Bee Hóldzil Fighting Scouts Events Center in Fort Defiance.

Published January 15, 2019

Surrounded by eight portraits that were borrowed from the stone walls of Shonto Chapter House, Jonathan Michael Nez was inaugurated the ninth president of the Navajo Nation Tuesday morning, ushering in a new era that he said would shatter the established order.

“These are all the previous leaders from the (Shonto) community,” Nez, 43, said of the portraits at the Bee HóIdzil Fighting Scouts Event Center, where thousands of people, a large number from Western Navajo, filled the seats.

The people in the portraits, Nez said, are those who served the Shonto community as leaders – Council delegates and chapter officials.

“We felt like it would be great to have these (portraits) follow us here,” Nez said. “Shonto has never had a vice president or a president come from there. It’s awesome to see the leadership.”

Nez added that the portraits of his forefathers followed him throughout his life to the highest seat in the Navajo Nation.

It’s been 20 years since a person from Western Navajo became president of the Navajo Nation. The last president from this area was Kelsey Begaye from Kaibeto, Arizona, who recently retired from politics.

Many of the guests included Shonto leadership such as Chapter Manager Robert K. Black, Chapter President Felix Fuller, and leaders from Ts’ahbiikin and Naatsis’áán chapters.

Nez’s special guests were his parents, John and Mabel Nez, who traveled to their son’s inauguration early Tuesday morning despite a snowstorm in northwestern Navajo. Mabel says they left at 4 a.m. to be here by at least 7 a.m.

This is an exciting day, said Mabel with a beaming smile as she waited for the ceremony to begin.

Mabel added that she and John are proud of their son. John and Mabel also have two adult daughters and a son who passed on

“I’m just excited … to transition,” Nez said in an interview with the Navajo Times before taking the oath of office. “We’ll have a first lady and a second lady working together. I’m excited about that. I’m excited about the cabinet members we brought in. We filled the highest cabinet today.”

Nez added that he’s excited to bring young, experienced professionals home to the Nation to work under his administration.

“We’re excited!” he exclaimed. “We’re ready to hit the ground running.”

Jonathan Nez is Áshįįhí and born for Ta’neeszahnii. His maternal grandfather is Tódích’íi’nii and his paternal grandfather is Bitáá’chii’nii.

With his hand on the Bible and a pledge to the Creator to uphold the laws of the Navajo Nation, Myron Lizer also took the oath of office immediately after Nez during the swearing-in ceremony that started at 10:40 a.m. In doing so, he became the Nation’s ninth vice president.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published by the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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