Tsosie says government must change from within
Candidate for president Leslie Tsosie said change in the Navajo Nation government has to come from the “inside out,” with a return to traditional values and leadership and treating all Diné with respect.
“I think everybody wants to do something to bring our Nation back together again,” said Tsosie. “I believe we need to look at our own leadership first and fix that before we can fix anything else.”
If elected president, Tsosie said her focus will be to serve the people by helping to bring prosperity and wellness to all citizens of the Nation.
“I want to see all Diné live a good, comfortable life,” said Tsosie, who is from Standing Rock, New Mexico.
Tsosie said she will be a good leader because she is firm, honest, has a “big heart,” and will work hard for the people.
She said everything she has set her mind to get done in her life she has accomplished.
In addition, Tsosie has a diverse background and skill set to offer including experience in organizational leadership, tribal community planning and development, education programming, environmental resources planning, public relations and communication outreach.
With her leadership skills, Tsosie says she knows how to bring people together to solve problems.
“I think that people like that I listen,” she said. “There’s no way I alone can do anything without everybody’s help.”
Among her professional positions, Tsosie has worked as an academic advisor and research assistant at Navajo Technical University and a program assistant for the Native Health/Health Start Program and the Phoenix Indian Center.
Wind, solar power
Among her priorities, Tsosie wants the Nation to invest more in natural renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, to help diversify revenues and expand much-needed power and electric services to the Navajo people.
She also wants to reduce the crippling bureaucracy and regulations when it comes to land-use management on the Nation.
She said she will work with the current U.S. Department of the Interior to find a way to return U.S. government trust land back to the Navajo people unencumbered.
Tsosie intends to bolster education resources and expand programs and services for youth, many of whom have lost faith in the Navajo Nation government.
“I believe in the future generation,” said Tsosie. “We need to trust them and listen to them. Effort has to be made to understand younger people and have compassion for them.”
But, first and foremost, as president Tsosie would start improving customer service for Diné citizens by Navajo government departments and offices, including through better communication and information-sharing.
“I’ve worked in customer service,” said Tsosie. “We can’t be treating our people like ‘nobody.’”
“There’s no professionalism at all to even help the people,” she said. “We are customers of our own land – they should treat us better.”
She said how the American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19 recovery funds have been handled is a good example of how the people are not provided the information they need or treated with the respect they deserve.
“It’s still a big hardship for these people who haven’t received their money,” she said. “They don’t understand why. They don’t get answers.”
Fair hiring practices
Tsosie wishes to expand access to employment opportunities for qualified applicants and work on making sure fairness in hiring practices and policies are followed.
She said she knows many people who did what they were advised to do, including going to get an education off-reservation, but when they try to come home with their credentials and apply for jobs they are rejected, which is devastating.
“That’s what our Chief Manuelito said,” she said, “‘Go get your education, come home, help your people.’”
In spite of the oppression forced on the Navajo people by the U.S. government, Chief Manuelito (1818-1893) was an advocate for Western education for Navajo children and famously said, “My grandchild, education is the ladder. Tell our people to take it.”
An academician herself, Tsosie earned a bachelor’s degree in Diné culture, language and leadership and a master’s from Navajo Technical University.
She also has a master’s in political management from George Washington University and is currently pursuing a doctorate in education at Grand Canyon University.
“I’ve always been a scholar,” said Tsosie. “I’ve also done a lot of volunteer work and internships.”
Among her internships, Tsosie has worked for the Navajo Nation Washington Office so that she could learn politics and how things work in the nation’s capital.
Tsosie said many Diné like herself try to “do the right thing,” to get their education and learn the ways of the Bilagáana world, but are ultimately forced to get jobs in border towns and cities off the reservation to make ends meet because of the lack of opportunity on the Navajo Nation.
She said she knows of so many educated people who are informed by the Department of Personnel Management that they don’t “fit the minimal requirements” and are not provided any further direction or career assistance.
“What do they do with all of these applications?” she asked. “I see all my kids, all my peers, all my colleagues – they are in a situation where they have the credentials but can’t get the jobs they worked hard for.”
‘Dream come true’
Hardships these days, especially after the pandemic, she wants to prioritize mental and behavioral health services on the Navajo Nation.
In her volunteer work, she has served several Indigenous community service centers in the Southwest as mental health mentor with a focus on traditional Native American healing modalities.
She has organized fundraising and events for the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and supports the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center in language and culture preservation and food distribution.
Tsosie is also a member of the American Indian Business League, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, and is a Native American Woman’s Embry scholar, Western History Association researcher, and an American Indian Graduate Center academic coach.
In addition to her academic achievements and volunteer service, Tsosie is also a licensed cosmetologist for more than 30 years.
“I’m really happy I have this opportunity to run for Navajo Nation president,” said Tsosie. “It is a dream come true. I’m really thankful that my constituents and my co-candidates are welcoming to me.”