Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren was inaugurated on Tuesday, Jan. 10. At 36, Nygren is the youngest person ever elected President of the Navajo Nation.

He joined Native News Online on last week’s Native Bidaské (Spotlight). He was interviewed by Levi Rickert, editor of Native News Online.

Nygren, who grew up in humble beginnings on the Navajo Indian Reservation, overcame many obstacles on his way to becoming the Navajo Nation president. He lived in a 10-foot travel trailer with no electricity and no running water. 

“I grew up with no electricity, no running water, being on a bus for two hours just to get to school," Nygren told Rickert. "And so those are some of the conditions I grew up with having a mom that struggled with alcoholism, and then eventually it took her life. As president of the Navajo Nation now, I want to make sure that’s at the center of all the decisions that I make is how do we cover the basic necessities to be a strong Nation.”

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Nygren spoke about fixing the multitude of infrastructure issues the Navajo Nation faces. He sees the lack of good roads as a major infrastructure problem on tribal land. 

“There’s thousands of miles of dirt roads, and then there’s hundreds of miles of paved roads," Nygren said. "We need to come up with creative solutions to open up more gravel pits that are that gravel that’s ready for paving highways..we got to make it easier for EMS and public safety to get out there. And to make sure that school bus routes are taken care of as well because our kids need to get to schools safely."

With over 80,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and almost 2,000 deaths from the virus since March 2020, the Navajo Nation served as the epicenter for COVID-19 in Indian Country. As a result, the previous administration implemented strict stay-at-home orders, curfews, and face mask requirements. Rickert asked Nygren if he was ready to lift the mask mandate still in effect on the Navajo Nation. 

“We need to completely open 100 percent. Because all surrounding communities around the Navajo Nation are 100 percent open," Nygren responded. "We’re the only ones that are maintaining this and it’s very difficult for normal Navajo people. As president, I want to make sure that the Navajo people have access to their government because a lot of them need just basic services or basic health right now. So as president, I’m actually working on making sure that we do lift that mandate and make it optional.”

To hear the entire conversation, watch the episode of Native Bidaske below or on YouTube.

Native Bidaské is produced by Native News Online weekly and streamed on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube every Friday at 12 noon - Eastern Time.

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