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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation is mourning the passing of former Navajo Nation President Kelsey Begaye, who passed away due to natural causes on Friday, Aug. 13 in Flagstaff, Ariz. He served as the president of the Navajo Nation from 1999-2003. Former President Begaye was 70. 

Prior to his public service, Begaye served in the Vietnam War as a member of the United States Army. He later became a substance abuse counselor, helping many young people to overcome drug and alcohol abuse. 

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“My wife Phefelia and I offer our condolences and prayers for President Kelsey Begaye’s family. To his wife Marie and their children, we pray that you take comfort in knowing that your husband and father is now with God. Mr. Begaye was a very humble and loving person, who overcame adversities at a young age and turned to his faith to become a loving family man, a Vietnam veteran, and a great leader for his people. Throughout his lifetime, he drew his strength and determination from his faith and gave back so much to our Navajo people. He will be greatly missed,” President Nez said.

Navajo Nation President Nez and Vice President Lizer call for all flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff. A proclamation will be issued once details of the service are finalized.

Begaye was born on Jan. 7, 1951 in Kaibeto, Ariz. He was Tódich’ii’nii and born for Tł’ízí łání.

Prior to being elected Navajo Nation president, Begaye also served as a local school board member, president and secretary/treasurer for Kaibeto Chapter, and two-terms as the Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council.  with former Vice President Taylor McKenzie, M.D.

Kelsey Begaye is survived by his wife, Marie Begaye, and five children. Their eldest son passed away in 2014. 

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