Long-serving delegate resigns from Navajo Nation Council

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Delegate Nelson BeGaye, right, receives a hug from Delegate Pernell Halona during the Navajo Nation Council summer session on July 15 in Window Rock, Ariz. BeGaye resigned from the council, citing a health condition, on July 15.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Delegate Nelson BeGaye announced his resignation from the Navajo Nation Council at the start of the summer session on July 15.

BeGaye made his emotional announcement, citing health reasons, while standing in front of colleagues, staff and members of the public inside the council chamber.

He started his fifth term on the 24-member council on Jan. 15. He represented his home area of Tsaile-Wheatfields in Arizona along with the chapters of Lukachukai, Rock Point, Round Rock and Tsé Ch'ízhí.

While he did not elaborate on his health condition, he said the issue "just came up as a surprise."

"I've always been healthy. I hate hospitals. I hate medication. Even with a headache, I would just meditate to get rid of it. But for some reason, only God knows, that this came upon me," he said.

He added he would "love" to continue his service, but he thought about his wife and their three children, who he wants to spend time with because he does not know what the future holds.

In his remarks, he recited Psalms 23 and read the letter of resignation he sent to Speaker Seth Damon on July 15.

Members of the Navajo Nation Council listen to Delegate Nelson BeGaye talk about his resignation from the council during the summer session on July 15 in Window Rock, Ariz.

BeGaye called his more than 16 years of service a "privilege."

"During that time, I have done my utmost to honor my oath of office and do what is right and just for the Diné people," he said.

BeGaye added that he submitted a resignation letter to the Navajo Election Administration then requested that Damon appoint Vida Benally, BeGaye's legislative district assistant, as interim delegate until a replacement is determined by a special election.

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Damon recalled when he started serving on the council BeGaye gave him a pocket version of the Bible.

BeGaye talked about his work as a rodeo announcer and using that Bible at rodeo events when he gave the item, the speaker said.

"I remember that. That was one of the first discussions I ever had with honorable Nelson BeGaye," Damon said.

Several delegates praised BeGaye's service, personality and friendship before adopting the agenda for the session.

In a press release, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer commended BeGaye's service, which started in 2003 with the 20th council.

"On behalf of the entire Nez-Lizer administration, we thank Honorable Nelson BeGaye and we wish him the very best," Nez said.

Nez and BeGaye served together on the council and were members of the Budget and Finance Committee.

"It was a tremendous honor to serve alongside him for many years. He is a great leader for his communities and out entire nation. We will keep him, his wife and his children in our thoughts and prayers," Nez 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.