Raymond Dunton leads organization after serving on board

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FARMINGTON — Raymond Dunton continues to settle into the role of president for Navajo Ministries Inc. after taking the job late last year.

Navajo Ministries is a faith-based nonprofit organization based in Farmington that includes the Four Corners Home for Children, KNMI Vertical Radio and Navajo Nation Outreach.

Dunton is the first Native American to lead the organization since its establishment in 1953.

He was introduced to Navajo Ministries in the late 1990s, eventually serving on its nine-member board of directors for 14 years.

Since transitioning from a board member to president, Dunton has been assessing the operation of the organization, including what methods have been effective and what change is needed.

"I perceive everything as changeable because I'm looking at the potential, so I don't struggle with hopelessness. I love the challenges. I don't shy away from them," he said.

He described the staff as "great people" who have "big hearts" and said he looks forward to working with them.

"I'm not even questioning the motivation. I would never do that. I believe where we'll see the greatest difference is in the method of what we are doing," he said.

Eric Fisher announced his resignation from Navajo Ministries in September, where he worked for nine years, including two years as president.

Dunton was among the first individuals recommended to replace Fisher, who died in December.

Navajo Ministries Board of Directors Chairman Larry Bomberger said Dunton brings a wealth of knowledge because of his ministry work, and his leadership skills and vision for the organization.

"I had nothing but highest respect for Raymond as a board member, and he continues to impress me. He is a man of character and of high integrity," Bomberger said.

Dunton said Fisher's unexpected death was a shock to the Navajo Ministries family.

As president, Dunton knew it was his responsibility to create space for staff members to talk about their grief and the emotions they were experiencing.

"Giving everybody an opportunity to talk because that's always important. They got to find their voice," he said.

Dunton, 63, was born and raised in southern California, where his maternal and paternal grandparents moved to as part of the American Indian relocation program operated by the federal government.

He was a teenager when he learned that he was Navajo and Hopi, and he continues to learn about both cultures.

"Because there was such a disconnect over a couple of generations, it's been a challenge for me to make those connections," he said adding his Hopi heritage comes from Second Mesa.

Southern California is where Dunton and his wife, Tuggy, started WINGS of Freedom, a nonprofit ministry now based in Ignacio, Colorado.

The first time the couple visited the Four Corners was for a motivational speech Dunton gave at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.

They continued to travel to the area for their ministry work and decided to move to Ignacio in 1998.

Board Chairman Bomberger said that Dunton was selected for the job because of his dedication to faith and service, and his positive impact on Native American communities.

"I think he'll be a very positive voice for us," Bomberger said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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