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First Navajo woman becomes Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council

First Navajo woman becomes Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council


The Navajo Nation government continues to make history.

The first-ever woman was elected the 25th speaker of the Council on Tuesday, the first day of the winter session.

Council Delegate Crystalyne Curley, 37, who represents Tachíí/Blue Gap, Many Farms, Nazlini, Tsélání/Cottonwood, Low Mountain, became the first woman to head the Navajo Nation Council.

The Fish Point, Arizona, native said she has a very high standard to meet.

“Especially following all of my speaker protégés, the ones that came before me,” Curley said, adding that it still “hasn’t fully sunk in.”

Curley bested Tuba City representative, Council Delegate Otto Tso, who served as the 24th Navajo Nation Council speaker pro tem since November. Tso was elected to continue serving as pro tem Jan. 10. His term ended after Curley took the oath of office.

Curley said she’s planning to continue speaking from her heart as the new speaker.

“My platform and my priorities really came from the heart of my whole childhood — my life, my experiences, the trauma that I’ve been through, and just really speaking up for everyone,” she said. “Especially as a mother and a grandmother, as an auntie, as a sister. It’s just very emotional.”

Three former Navajo Nation speakers – Lawrence Morgan, LoRenzo Bates, and Johnny Naize – attended the first day of the winter session, but only Bates witnessed Curley take the oath of office.

Morgan served as the 20th Navajo Nation Council speaker from 2003 to 2011, followed by Naize, who resigned in 2014 after he was charged with 11 counts of bribery. Naize formerly represented the chapters the newly sworn-in speaker now represents. Bates served as the speaker for the 23rd Council.

Curley’s mother, Marilyn Curley, said she was “excited and surprised” by her daughter’s appointment.

“I was just helping her move from the house, and I was so shocked,” she said Monday night at the Navajo Nation Council Chamber.

Marilyn added she was “speechless” that Crystalyne is the first woman in the Council’s history to become its speaker.

“She came a long ways,” she said.

President Buu Nygren and Vice President Richelle Montoya were supposed to give their first state of the nation address. Still, they did not because the Council voted to recess early and visited the Chamber. Nygren hugged and congratulated Curley for her appointment, followed by Montoya.

“I think it’s a historic day, a very proud day for the Navajo Nation because not only do we have a madam speaker for the very first time,” he said Monday night.

Nygren added Montoya also made history when she became the Navajo Nation’s first vice president. He also made history by becoming the youngest president.

“It’s just such an amazing day for the Navajo people,” he said of Curley.

Curley took her seat smiling. She took a deep breath before giving her first speech to the Council.

“It’s an honor to be serving you as your new speaker. I am very appreciative for being nominated,” she said. “Nizhónígo ‘áhxíł indádiilnish, and with love and compassion and respect for one another. I just pray for new guidance and direction.

Curley will serve for two years when a new speaker is selected. She did not say if she’d vie for the job again.

About The Author

Donovan Quintero

"Dii, Diné bi Naaltsoos wolyéhíígíí, ninaaltsoos át'é. Nihi cheii dóó nihi másání ádaaní: Nihi Diné Bizaad bił ninhi't'eelyá áádóó t'áá háadida nihizaad nihił ch'aawóle'lágo. Nihi bee haz'áanii at'é, nihisin at'é, nihi hózhǫ́ǫ́jí at'é, nihi 'ach'ą́ą́h naagééh at'é. Dilkǫǫho saad bee yájíłti', k'ídahoneezláo saad bee yájíłti', ą́ą́ chánahgo saad bee yájíłti', diits'a'go saad bee yájíłti', nabik'íyájíłti' baa yájíłti', bich'į' yájíłti', hach'į' yándaałti', diné k'ehgo bik'izhdiitįįh. This is the belief I do my best to follow when I am writing Diné-related stories and photographing our events, games and news. Ahxéhee', shik'éí dóó shidine'é." - Donovan Quintero, an award-winning Diné journalist, served as a photographer, reporter and as assistant editor of the Navajo Times until March 17, 2023.


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