Shirley says Nez is misogynist; gains endorsement


Navajo Times | File

Joe Shirley Jr.

Casting his opponent as a misogynist who believes “a woman belongs in the home,” candidate for president Joe Shirley Jr. gained the endorsement of one of the Navajo Nation’s most high-profile women at a meet-and-greet here Tuesday night.

Shirley was basing his claim on a statement Nez made during their debate last week, although a Navajo language translator said Nez’s remark in Navajo was more accurately translated as “a woman’s leadership is in the home,” or “the woman is the leader in the home.”

Nez had also added that his wife, Phephelia, would have a major leadership role as first lady and he would endeavor to hire more women cabinet members.
Still, the statement drew the ire of both women and Shirley supporters on social media, some of whom said the current vice president’s biblical beliefs contrasted with traditional Navajo views on the role of women.

Shirley said the number of women in Congress attests to their leadership ability.

Navajo Times | File

Jonathan Nez

“Our women need to be respected,” he said. “I’m pushing for equality not just in status, but true equality. I’m pleading with you, vote for the team that’s going to respect women.”

Former Council Delegate Katherine Benally, who had attended the debate, said Nez had lost her respect after making the remark about women and she had decided to throw her support to Shirley. Tom Chee, for whom she had campaigned heavily in Northern Agency, did not survive the primary election.

“We’re the real bosses here, right?” she asked the women in the crowd, drawing laughter and cheers.

Benally, a powerful presence who had represented Chilchinbeto, Kayenta and Dennehotso chapters on the Council, fell from grace in 2009 when she was implicated in the slush fund scandal and sealed her fate in 2013 when she supported keeping Johnny Naize as speaker after he was also brought up on misappropriation charges.

Last year, as president of Dennehotso Chapter, she was accused of withdrawing $1,500 from the chapter’s account and depositing it into her personal account. At the meet-and-greet, she described the transfer as a “senior moment” and an “honest mistake,” explaining she had confused the account numbers.

Benally said that while she and Shirley didn’t always agree when she was on the Council and he was president, “we always shook hands on the way out of the Council Chamber.”

“I’m standing by him,” she added.

Former Miss Navajo Nation Crystal Littleben said the Russell Begaye administration’s lack of value for women is reflected in the budget of the Office of Miss Navajo, which she described as woefully underfunded.

“We had to look for money,” she told the standing-room-only crowd at the Lukachukai Chapter House. “President Begaye said, ‘Fundraise for the rest of your money.’ It shouldn’t be like that.” …

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About The Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at


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