Family, friends, colleagues pay last respects to Begay

TOHATCHI, N.M.

About 600 family, friends and colleagues who worked with the late Navajo Nation Council Delegate Steven Begay remembered how he touched their lives on Friday during a remembrance service at the Tohatchi High gym.

A longtime friend of Begay, Dusty Jansen, remembered his best friend as being someone who “cared” about him. The two played sports during their time at the high school, he said.

Begay’s staff assistant Olin Kieyoomia was one of the last to speak and remembered Begay telling him to always respect Diné traditional ways.

Eleven of his former colleagues paid their respects. Amber Crotty was one.

“I’m only a hitchhike dollar away from you,” she said, while remembering him.

Begay, who died on Oct.4, graduated from Tohatchi High School as the school’s salutatorian in 1993 and went to college at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

After college he went to work at the Navajo Nation’s Historic Preservation Department where he played a role in repatriating sacred Navajo items.

Begay went on to work for Gallup Indian Medical Center before becoming a Council delegate for District 14, which includes Twin Lakes, Mexican Springs, Coyote Canyon, Tohatchi and Naschitti chapters.

“My heart is full or pride, respect and compassion as I humbly address you today, my relatives, friends, neighbors, and constituents,” Begay said after he was sworn-in on April 14, 2017. “I want to thank my communities because they believe I can stabilize our district and reaffirm their voice on the Navajo Nation Council.”

Begay’s wife and children also thanked everyone for their condolences in a written statement.

“Thank you for your condolences, sympathy messages, prayers, and donations,” the letter stated. “Our family has been deeply touched by the outpouring of love and generous support from so many people.

“We will never forget the overwhelming support and kindness that you all have bestowed upon us during this difficult time. You presence, thoughts, and prayers will provide us the strength and courage to face the difficult days ahead.”

On Tuesday, the five chapters that make up Begay’s district recommended Kieyoomia and Pernell Halona, who was running against Begay before his death, to represent their district on a interim basis until the 24th Navajo Nation Council convenes in January.

Four chapters voted for Kieyoomia while Tohatchi recommended Halona to serve out Begay’s term.

According to Jared Touchin, the Council’s communications representative, Halona, who is the only candidate for Begay’s seat, will be officially sworn-in as the next delegate for District 14 on the 24th Navajo Nation Council.

In the meantime, Speaker of the Council LoRenzo Bates said after a 10-day challenge period, he would make a decision on who would take Begay’s seat as interim delegate.

“The process is ongoing,” Bates said. “Of the five chapters he represented, there were two recommendations.”

During the 10-day period, Begay’s seat would not be occupied during the fall session, which begins Monday.

Bates explained if all five chapters had voted for either Kieyoomia or Halona, then he would have sworn-in the interim delegate next week.

“Because there’s two individuals, there’s a 10-day process for a challenge, so that is ongoing as of yesterday,” Bates said. “The person I appoint has until October 22, and I’ll appoint that individual.”

Begay was originally from Nashchitti, New Mexico, where he lived with his wife and two children. His clans were Tł’ááshchí’í born for Áshįįhí; his maternal grandfather was Tódích’íi’nii, and his paternal grandfather was Dólii Dine’é Táchii’nii.

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