2022 Elections: Nygren, Montoya to take helm in January
Buu Nygren, 35, has been elected Navajo Nation president.
The Red Mesa, Arizona native, said he felt good about his win over incumbent Jonathan Nez on Tuesday night in Window Rock.
Nygren said the Navajo people made “a big decision” on Election Day and voted on the merits of what his administration could do for the Navajo Nation.
“What they care about in leadership is leadership that’s willing to work on behalf of the Navajo people to get stuff done and to work across the aisle,” he said. “I pleaded to them; I said, ‘Give me a chance. I’m a worker, and I know how to work, and get me in there, and I’m gonna work for you.’ And I think that’s what’s really resonating with me tonight.”
Voters Phillip and Betty Martin from Deer Springs, New Mexico, who’ve been married for 57 years, said improving the dirt road was why they voted.
“The road got bad not too long, so that’s the reason why we voted,” Mr. Morgan said on Tuesday morning after voting at the Twin Lakes Chapter.
Phillip said it seemed they’d been forgotten.
“We’ve asked the chapter if they could use their grader to fix the road for us,” he said. “Nothing! They’re not trying to grade it for us.”
Phillip and his wife said they even asked if they could borrow the heavy equipment so they could ask someone who could operate it to fix the area around their home, but even that request was ignored.
Mrs. Morgan said they also had to haul water every other day. So, her wish is to get running water into their home.
“We haul our water from the (Chuska) mountain every other day,” she said.
Mr. Morgan pointed to the back of his muddy pickup truck and said they had their water tank with them.
Betty said they have a cistern in place, but for it to work properly, they must fill the underground tank with water every other day.
“There’s no way we can haul water when the dirt road gets muddy,” she added.
Nygren said he has a plan for that.
First 100 days
One of the first orders of business in the first 100 days of his administration is establishing gravel pits, said Nygren.
“They said the roads are terrible. We want to start building gravel pits because everywhere across Navajo land,” he said. “We don’t have our own gravel pits. Let’s invest in our own gravel pits. And so, we can start working on our own roads and start putting the heavy equipment to work and scattered all over the Navajo Nation.”
Another priority Nygren wants to tackle is revamping the business economy.
“ARPA and CARES need to be relooked at because some of those projects are probably not going to get done in two years,” Nygren said. “So, we need to reevaluate what can get done and what can’t get done. And so, we need to redirect a lot of those funds to projects that are feasible.”
Vice president-elect Montoya plans to visit the communities throughout the reservation to listen to the concerns the people want to address.
“Whatever information that needs to come back to the Office of the President and Vice President, it’ll be brought back by me,” she said.
She added she and Nygren have a vision and wants to ensure the people are getting the services they deserve.
For both Nygren and Montoya, the other two priorities are to create a rapport with the Navajo Nation Council.
Changes to Council seats
Voters made sweeping changes in the Council delegate races. Nine women will be sworn in Jan. 15. In addition, incumbents Kee Allen Begay, Wilson Stewart Jr., Nathaniel Brown, Paul Begay, Mark Freeland, Jamie Henio, Thomas Walker Jr., Edison Wauneka, and Edmund Yazzie will not be returning to join the 25th Navajo Nation Council.
Unofficially, they have all lost.
Seth Damon, the troubled speaker who admitted to being photographed in a compromising position during the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, unofficially received 2,705 votes. He ran unopposed.
Unofficially, according to the Navajo Election Administration, 123,359 Navajos cast their ballots in the general election. Chinle Agency unofficially recorded the highest number of voters who went to the polls, voted early, or mailed in their ballots.
Representing the Nation
Nygren and Montoya unofficially received 34,568 votes. And Nez and Abeyta unofficially received 31,069 votes, with all 110 polling sites reporting.
Nygren and Montoya maintained their lead over Nez and vice presidential running mate Chad Abeyta and never trailed.
The pair and their partners – Arizona state Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren and Olson Montoya – sat on stage as cheers erupted during speeches being given by supporters.
The vice president-elect’s husband also became the Navajo Nation’s first, second gentleman.
Mr. Montoya became emotional as his wife gave her victory speech.
Nygren said when he goes to Washington, D.C., in January to represent the Nation as the Navajo Nation president, he isn’t planning on wearing a tie and a business suit.
“We can have a modern-day Navajo lead us, meaning I never wore a tie throughout the whole campaign,” he said. “I had my bow guard, I have my bracelet, my coral necklace, my buckle, my hat, my eagle feather, my tsiiyéél, and I felt like we’re such a big tribe that we should always be proud to be Navajo.
“Come January, when I go to Washington, D.C., and I start having those meetings, they’re gonna have a Navajo president that’s going to come in with a tsiiyéél, with a necklace, and really represent us worldwide.”
Church Rock Chapter voter Leander Myers said he voted for youth over experience.
“I would say maybe the younger version of candidates will do a better job than the older versions,” he said.
Meyers echoed a similar concern as Phillip and Betty Morgan. He said road improvements needed to happen as soon as possible and added that the Navajo people required more money too.
Myers hopes the new administration and the newly elected Council delegates keep their word.
Nygren, Montoya, newly elected Council delegates, and other elected tribal officials will be sworn into office Jan. 15.