Forum to explore views Navajo Nation presidential candidates have on veterans

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Northern Agency Veterans' Organization will host a forum on June 3 for candidates running for the Navajo Nation presidency.

The intent of the forum is to provide space for the 15 candidates to talk about issues and topics they think impact veterans on the Navajo Nation, explained Vern Lee, the organization's co-commander.

He added that the forum's format will not fall under the usual questions and answers mode. Rather, the organization asked candidates to think of three obstacles they view as affecting veterans and how they would address those problems.

Lee said each candidate will have 10 minutes to speak and organization members will record the candidates' responses and monitor their progress, if elected.

A group cheers for their candidate on Aug. 26, 2014 as the results are read in the Navajo Nation primary election at Window Rock Sports Center in Window Rock, Arizona.

Two years after taking office, the organization will check the status of the administration.

"It's going to be a test of integrity. They will have to do what they say they're going to do, not just give us lip service," Lee said.

This is holding them accountable about what they say or offer, he added.

According to Lee, the tribe opened its department of veterans affairs in 1975.

Members of the organization decided to hold the forum because they do not see tribal leadership addressing the multitude of issues that impact veterans.

This includes housing and utilizing on the tribal land benefits and health care under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Lee said.

"After 47 years, we're still having the same problems," he said.

Navajo Nation voters line up to gather information from a candidate's tent during the tribe's primary election on Aug. 28, 2018 at the Shiprock Chapter house.

The tribe's primary election is Aug. 2.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez is seeking reelection and faces challenges from Earl L. Sombrero, Dolly Manson, Dineh Benally, Justin Jones, Buu Nygren, Emily Ellison, Kevin Cody, Sandra Jeff, Frankie Davis, Leslie M. Tsosie, Ethel Billie Branch, Greg H. Bigman, Frank Dayish and Rosanna Jumbo-Fitch.

Nygren, Benally, Sombrero, Branch, Dayish, Davis, Bigman, Jones, Jumbo-Fitch and Jeff confirmed their participation in the forum, according to the veterans' organization.

Lee explained that the organization attempted to reach each candidate by mail, social media, email and other available resources.

The forum is open to the public, but tickets were distributed to veterans and their family members, so they have priority in seating, Lee explained.

The forum is June 3 in the Henderson Fine Arts Center on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington.

Doors open at 4 p.m. and the Shiprock Chapter Veterans Organization will post the colors at the start of the event at 4:30 p.m.

Pastor Robert Tso of Shiprock will give the welcome address then explain the purpose and guidelines to conduct the forum.

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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