SHIPROCK — Members of the Shiprock Planning Commission sponsored a forum last week to inform voters about the candidates running for Shiprock's seat on the Navajo Nation Council.
This was the first forum organized by the commission, a 12-member committee whose purpose is to develop the chapter's land use areas, including zoning and land withdrawals. The event was organized to educate registered chapter voters about the candidates' platforms, said Viviene Tallbull, the commission's chairwoman.
"We did it for the purpose of getting to know the candidates," Tallbull said.
Walk-in voting has already started for the Navajo Nation's Aug. 26 primary election. The general election is on Nov. 4.
The commission developed some of the questions for Thursday's forum, while others were submitted by the audience. Questions could not target a specific candidate or constitute a personal attack.
"We wanted to do it in a fair way," Tallbull said. "I thought it was a good way to get Shiprock involved."
Council delegate candidates Myron K. Begaye, Ray Begaye, Wallace Charley, Tom Chee, Lula Jackson, William Lee and Rose Fasthorse Nofchissey attended Thursday's forum at the Shiprock Chapter house.
Absent were candidates Wilbur M. Nelson Jr. and Jerry Jay Todacheene.
Incumbent Russell Begaye is not seeking reelection for the seat and is instead running for the tribal presidency.
During the forum, each candidate was asked a question, which was selected at random via a drawing. Candidates had two minutes to answer.
The three rounds were filled with questions that focused on topics like education, government reform, tribal and county relationships, transportation, small businesses, veteran services and economic development.
Although the questions were asked in English, the majority of the candidates responded in the Navajo language.
In addition to answering questions, candidates were also allotted time for introductions and to share information about their platforms.
"We need to bring strength and honesty back into the Navajo Nation Council," Nofchissey said during her introduction.
Myron K. Begaye said his aunts and uncles remember the days when Shiprock had a strong small business community.
"Why can't we thrive again?" Begaye said.
On Friday, Tallbull called the forum a success. She said the commission is planning another one for Aug. 21. Additional details will be released later, she said.
"It was a good experience for us," Tallbull said of the first forum.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.