FARMINGTON — A group of Navajo youth are hosting a forum today in Shiprock for the candidates running for the tribe's highest office.
Candidates for Navajo Nation president will talk about issues — such as water rights, health, education, climate change and local employment — and answer the questions on the minds of Navajo youth during the Diné Youth Forum.
Organizers created the forum after they realized this season's presidential forums did not ask candidates questions from the perspectives of youth, said Colleen Cooley, who arranged the forum with 15 youth from across the reservation.
"We have a voice, especially the ones who are able to vote," said Cooley, 28. "The youth are intelligent, creative and motivated."
The youth — who organizers consider as Navajos younger than 35 — have ideas and solutions to assist in moving the tribe forward, she said. Unfortunately, they are often cast aside or told they are not allowed to talk, Cooley said, but this forum provides an opportunity for them to develop dialogue with the future leadership.
Some of the forum's questions have already been developed, but organizers also want attendees to formulate questions during the Youth Strategic Work Session, which will take place at 3:30 p.m. today.
"We want the youth to do it themselves," Cooley said.
Organizers sent invitations to the 17 presidential candidates, and nine have confirmed their attendance. They are Edison "Chip" Begay, Russell Begaye, Moroni Benally, Carrie Lynn Martin, Cal Nez, Joe Shirley Jr., Dan Smith, Dale E. Tsosie and Duane "Chili" Yazzie.
The forum will be broadcast from 6 to 8 p.m. on KTNN 660 AM, and the Navajo Nation Office of Broadcast Services will stream it online from 6 to 9 p.m. at www.ustream.tv/channel/nnobs.
In other election news, Monday was the last day for registered voters to submit an application to request an absentee ballot, according to the Navajo Election Administration.
Individuals may still vote early at any agency election office, regardless of their chapter precinct.
The last day to complete early walk-in voting is Aug. 22.
The election administration also announced there will be no early voting at urban locations for both the primary and general elections.
Johnny Thompson, the tribe's Election Administration assistant program manager, said the election office provides polling sites in urban areas whenever funding is available.
No additional funding is available this election cycle. Navajos living in urban areas like Albuquerque and Phoenix have to seek other alternatives to vote, he said.
"The bottom line is the funding," Thompson said, adding that the election office has been encouraging people to either vote by absentee ballot or early vote.
IF YOU GO
What: Diné Youth Forum
When: Youth Strategic Work Session is from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. today. Forum is from 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: Shiprock Chapter House on U.S. Highway 64 in Shiprock
More Info: Organizers can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.