Peshlakai's pedigree prepared her to serve

By Antonio Ramirez
Navajo Times,

WINDOW ROCK, August 29, 2013

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F reshman Arizona State Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai (D-Dist. 7) has a family history intertwined with the Navajo chronicle.

In 1904, Peshlakai's great-grandfathers Beshlagaii Astidii and Chishi Nez traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with President Theodore Roosevelt.

Their goal was to convince Roosevelt to annex a stretch of land from what is now Flagstaff to the south rim of the Grand Canyon to the San Francisco Peaks into the Navajo Nation.

While they were unsuccessful in gaining all the sought-after land, the two ended up helping to expand the territory of the Navajo Nation.

In an old black-and-white photograph of Astidii and Nez there sits William Johnson, who was a missionary at the time. William Johnson's son Phillip grew up with Jamescita's family and went on to make a dent in Navajo history. Phillip Johnson is the one who recommend that the U.S. military use the Navajo language for a code against the Japanese.

Through the years 1989-1997, Peshlakai, who visited the Navajo Times on Aug. 21, served with the U.S. Army and fought in the Persian Gulf War.

So when Peshlakai speaks on behalf of veterans, she speaks from experience. Included are the Navajo Code Talkers, whom she believes should have a federally funded museum on the Navajo Nation.

Peshlakai advocates for long-term investments in infrastructure and education, and works with nonprofits. She acknowledges the adversity nonprofits face when relying on inconsistent funding through year-to-year grants and said that she wants to keep her doors open to the experts in the community for ideas and insight.

"There are brilliant people in my district," said Peshlakai.

Considering the grazing permit and land use system, Peshlakai believes that there can be more done to better enable local leaders to do proactive community planning.

"People have a difficult time to get a home sight lease," said Peshlakai. "Their hands are tied by law when they actually try to build."

A message she would like to extend to the public is the importance of voting.

Peshlakai said, "Some people tell me that they don't vote because they don't make a difference. I tell them that is absolutely not true."

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