Tribal police investigating death of Steven Begay

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FARMINGTON — Leaders on the Navajo Nation are mourning the death of tribal council Delegate Steven Begay.

Begay, who represented the Bahastl'ah, Coyote Canyon, Mexican Springs, Naschitti and Tohatchi chapters, died Thursday, according to a press release from the Office of the Speaker.

Speaker LoRenzo Bates extended his sympathies today to Begay's family.

"On behalf of council, I want to express our sincerest condolences to the family of Honorable Begay, and we send our prayers to them with great love and support during their time of need," Bates said

He added delegates continue to process the news about their colleague and asked the public to respect the family's privacy, he added.

Bates said there was no information about Begay's death and he will wait until the investigation has been completed before releasing any other information.

Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco confirmed today the tribe's Department of Criminal Investigations is investigating, and no further information was available.

Begay, 43, won a special election in March 2017 to replace former delegate Mel R. Begay on the 24-member council.

The seat opened when Mel R. Begay was found guilty in March 2016 of misusing a financial assistance program designed to help tribal members with financial emergencies.

Steven Begay was seeking re-election in the November general election.

Among the bills Begay sponsored was supplemental funding to rebuild structures damaged in 2014 by the Assayii Lake Fire on Ch'ooshgai Mountain.

In August, Begay and Bates visited the recovery area and presented keys to Naschitti chapter members who received replacement structures.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez sent their condolences in a separate release today.

Both leaders said Begay provided traditional guidance and perspective in his decision making, including co-sponsoring legislation for the Navajo Nation to purchase the Wolf Springs Ranch in Colorado. The ranch is located near Blanca Peak, one of the four sacred mountains to the Navajo people.

"For the Navajo Nation to gain a foothold near our aboriginal homelands located in Colorado was a great victory. Delegate Begay's legacy lies within the work he provided to the nation. He will be remembered for years to come because of it," President Begaye said.

Begay was a Naschitti resident and lived there with his wife and two children, according to the Speaker's Office release.

He was Tlááshchí'i (Red Bottom People Clan), born for 'Áshiihíí (Salt People Clan). His maternal grandfather clan was Tódích'íi'nii (Bitter Water), and his paternal grandfather clan was Dólii dine'é Táchii'nii (Blue Bird People of the Red Running Into the Water), the release states.

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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