Former vice president candidate Buu Nygren seeks to lead Navajo Nation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

WINDOW ROCK, Arizona — Buu Nygren stepped into the Navajo Nation political spotlight four years ago as running mate to Joe Shirley Jr. in his effort to serve a third term as tribal president.

On April 4, Nygren announced his candidacy for tribal president. The 35-year-old is the first contender to publicize a bid for the presidency, which is among the various offices that voters will determine this year.

"Yá'át'ééh!" he said to those gathered for the announcement at Veterans Memorial Park, located across the street from the president's office, in Window Rock.

Nygren gave an hourlong speech – mainly in the Navajo language with an occasional statement in English – that touched on his early life, education, career and reasons for running.

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Buu Nygren, of Red Mesa, Arizona, talks about his candidacy for Navajo Nation president on April 4 in Window Rock, Arizona. He is joined by his wife, Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren.

He highlighted the need to enhance the tribe's economy by developing more support for tribal members to open businesses.

"My ultimate goal is to attract Navajos to start their own businesses here on Navajo and employ themselves and other Navajos," he said.

He said ways to accomplish this include reorganizing and revamping tribal policies, laws and regulations to create an environment where Navajos can easily start businesses.

"I believe it is doable," Nygren said.

Arizona state Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, left, talks about her husband, Buu Nygren, and his campaign for Navajo Nation president on April 4 in Window Rock, Arizona.

He called for more training, equipment and support for the tribe's law enforcement and harsher penalties for people tried in tribal courts.

To attract more police officers and prosecutors he proposed offering competitive employment packages.

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"We are at a point in a changing world where we have to adapt again and again. We must improve ourselves, our policies for the people and not work against our people, we have to empower and enable ourselves so that our homeland can thrive," he said.

His campaign platform is online at

The aspiration to run for tribal president began when Nygren was young and walking the hallways at school in Red Mesa, Arizona.

"I would look at the portraits on the walls and I'd see chairmen and presidents. I would think to myself, 'someday, I wonder if I could be like them,'" he said.

At left, Felda Yazzie from Tsé 'íí'áhí Chapter, claps during Buu Nygren's speech about seeking the tribal presidency on April 4 in Window Rock, Arizona.

Nygren is Táchii'nii (Red Running Into the Water People), born for Vietnamese. His maternal grandfather clan is Tódích'íi'nii (Bitter Water), and his parental grandfather is Vietnamese.

He was raised by his late mother and his grandmother in Red Mesa.

During his speech, he explained that he never met his father and his mother told him that his father came to the United States as a refugee from southern Vietnam.

Nygren is married to Arizona state Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren. They live in Red Mesa with their infant daughter, Evelyn.

"Today, we're launching this campaign as a team, a partnership," Nygren said. "I'm honored to have my wife's full support in what is sure to be one of the most rewarding challenges of our lives."

Tsé 'íí'áhí Chapter resident Felda Yazzie cheered throughout Nygren's speech. Later, Yazzie smiled when having her photo taken with Nygren and his wife.

"We always hunger for younger people in the political field," Yazzie said.

Former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. and his wife, Vikki Shirley, attended the event as well.

"I have every confidence in him that he'll make a good leader, if people can give him a chance," Joe Shirley Jr. said.

The filing period for the tribe's Aug. 2 primary election begins on April 21 and closes on May 4, according to the Navajo Election Administration.

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

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