New Navajo Nation President Handles First State of Emergency

90 homes at Tohajiilee Chapter on Navajo Indian Reservation lost water on Friday.

90 homes at Tohajiilee Chapter on Navajo Indian Reservation lost water on Friday.

WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA — Russell Begaye took the oath of office as the new Navajo Nation president this past Tuesday. By Friday, President Begaye was in complete control of his first state of emergency on the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Shortly before 6 p.m. on Friday, May 15, the Tohajiilee Chapter issued a declaration of emergency due to lack of water for 90 housing units operated by Navajo Housing Authority (NHA).

Chapter president Raymond Secatero stated, “The community of Tohajiilee is declaring a state of emergency for the 90 homes that were impacted.”

President Russell Begaye responded immediately and instructed Office of the President and Vice President staff to work with NHA and the Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management to address the crisis.

“We have our emergency personnel assisting with the water crisis. The Department of Emergency Management has been contacted and we have water delivered in the morning,” said President Begaye. “We encourage residents to use caution and remain safe during this emergency. The situation is being addressed,” he said.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez were sworn in on Tuesday. Already hard at work.(Photo by Rick Abasta)

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez were sworn in on Tuesday. Already hard at work.(Photo by Rick Abasta)

Vice President Jonathan Nez agreed and said residents must take a proactive role in addressing the situation.

Vice President Nez said, “We encourage residents to check on each other. In an emergency like this, we must execute and recognize self-sufficiency and self-reliance.”

The immediate response to the emergency ensured that residents had water before noon earlier today.

Priscilla Tsinigine, housing director for the NHA Tohajiilee housing management office, said water well number 5 was not working and that it would take a few days for repairs by the Tohajiilee Water Department.

“In coordination with the Office of the President and Vice President, Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management and Indian Health Services, we have located water truck,” Tsinigine said.

In the meantime, NHA has setup 24 portable toilets at the housing subdivision for residents.

Rose Whitehair, director of NNDEM, said, “Portable toilets will be setup and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority will be sending out a water tanker in the morning, although east Tohajiilee is not within in their jurisdiction.”

“We are thankful for the cooperation of all who responded,” she added.

President Begaye commended the participating agencies for the swift response and assured residents that water is on the way.

The NHA housing management office anticipates repair of the water well to be completed in a few days.

President Begaye will travel to the Tohajiilee chapter on Sunday, May 17, 2015.

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