Navajo Nation President Presents Keys to New House to Family Whose House Burned

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye hands the keys to a newly constructed home to Elvira Bitsilly and her husband Irving Tsosie. The couple’s home burned down in March 2017.

Published July 11, 2018

MEXICAN SPRINGS. N.M. – On Friday, July 6, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye presented the keys for a newly constructed home to a Mexican Springs family whose home had burned down over a year ago.

Elvira Bitsilly and Irving Tsosie lost their home to a fire on Mar. 20, 2017. The fire destroyed all of the couple’s belongings and caused them to live in motels and look for emergency housing.

“It’s hard to talk about. It hurts,” Bitsilly said. “We are so appreciative of Carl Smith and the Division of Community Development (DCD) for helping us. We are also thankful to the crew and the Office of the President and Vice President (OPVP).”


Bitsilly’s home was constructed on her family’s plot of land in Mexican Springs, N.M.

Tsosie said the family had experienced a string of bad luck in 2017. A few months prior to their house burning down, the family lost their daughter when she became unexpectedly ill.

“She got sick and it happened very fast,” said Tsosie whose 29-year-old daughter was an orthodontic technician who was planning on returning to college.

“We’ve been through a lot and it’s been hard to get back on our feet,” he said. “We haven’t yet.”

After their home burned, the couple stayed in motels in Gallup for a month. They were able to eventually get emergency housing in Rock Springs, N.M. As they attended housing meetings, they met Carl Smith, Executive Director of DCD. With the help of DCD, the couple was able to get assistance.

“When they first walked into my office and told us what happened to them, we knew we had to help. The family had nobody,” Smith said. “Because there are so many families in need, this project had to be placed on a lower priority level. However, like every project, we work hard to get them completed.”

During the presentation, President Begaye spoke about his background in home construction before he became a politician and how implementing a home project initiative in his administration was important.

In every year of his administration, President Begaye and OPVP staff have organized home construction, refurbishing and renovation projects for elderly Navajos and veterans. The president said these efforts are to assist families in need as well, like the Bitsilly’s.

“We have been involved in this project from the start. OPVP worked with Smith and his crew along with volunteers and church groups to address housing needs like these. This is our initiative,” President Begaye said. “We heard about the couple’s situation and began working with DCD. It touches your heart when you can help a family that is struggling and in need.”

Smith said projects like these are gratifying and exemplify the purpose of DCD in addressing community needs.

“This is why I push my crew to hustle,” he said. “It’s not because of money or because we have to do it. There are so many families out there in need. We have many more homes coming up and I thank President Begaye and OPVP for funding these projects.”

Bitsilly and Tsosie expressed appreciation to DCD and OPVP for helping them get back on their feet.

“From everything that has happened up until now, we’ve been through a lot. We lost everything,” Tsosie said. “This gives us hope. We have a home now and we are very thankful.”

President Begaye also thanked DCD for getting the project completed.

“I appreciate Smith and his crew for getting this and many other projects finished. These projects are so critical to our people,” he said. “These projects will continue throughout my presidency. This crew needs to continue this work and I’ll continue to fund these projects that help our people.”

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