Shiprock residents meet Shirley's vice presidential pick

Buu Nygren replaces Peter Deswood III on ticket

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation vice presidential candidate Buu Van Nygren, center, shakes hands with supporters during a campaign dinner Wednesday at the Nataani Nez Restaurant in Shiprock.

SHIPROCK — A day after Buu Nygren was named to run with Joe Shirley Jr. for two of the highest offices on the Navajo Nation, the Red Mesa, Utah, resident met supporters and community members during an event here Wednesday.

Shirley is seeking to take back the Navajo Nation presidency and selected Nygren as his running mate after his initial running mate was discovered to be ineligible for the office on Tuesday.

Nygren, 31, sat next to Shirley, 70, at the Nataani Nez Restaurant for an event organized in Shiprock on Wednesday by the Northern Agency Dr. Joe Shirley Jr. Campaign Committee.

"I think through this ticket, we can bridge the gap between the young generation and the older generation, to come back together to address the problems on Navajo," Nygren said in an interview.

Supporters of Navajo presidential candidate Joe Shirley Jr. wait in line Wednesday at the Nataani Nez Restaurant in Shiprock to meet his running mate, Buu Van Nygren.

Nygren replaced Farmington resident Peter Deswood III on the Shirley ticket after Deswood was not deemed unqualified for the position because he was not a registered Navajo Nation voter.

A voter registration with the tribe is among the qualifications for the vice presidency, according to the Navajo Election Code.

The campaign became aware of Deswood's situation when he filed candidacy paperwork with the Navajo Election Administration Tuesday afternoon.

Patrick Sandoval, Shirley's campaign manager, previously said Deswood was part of a voter registration purge conducted prior to the election.

Buu Van Nygren, left and Joe Shirley Jr. talk Wednesday during a campaign dinner at the Nataani Nez Restaurant in Shiprock.

The Navajo Board of Election Supervisors cancelled voter registrations in January for 52,425 tribal members who did not vote consecutively in the 2014 and 2016 elections. Action by the board came after notices were sent in December that informed voters about the cancellation, according to the election administration.

When asked about what Nygren brings to the campaign, Shirley said Wednesday, "I think he'll bring the youth voice. When it comes time to reach out to the youth, he'll be the one to do it."

On Tuesday, presidential candidate Jonathan Nez selected Window Rock, Arizona, businessman Myron Lizer for the vice presidency.

Nygren and his wife, Jasmine, have been Shirley supporters and helped the campaign in 2014 and this election season.

Vice presidential candidate Buu Van Nygren, left, talks with Navajo Nation presidential candidate Joe Shirley Jr. and his wife Vikki Shirley Wednesday during a campaign dinner at the Nataani Nez Restaurant in Shiprock.

"We were excited because we believe in Joe's initiatives, his efforts and his platforms to move the nation forward. To be part of that ticket is an honor," Nygren said.

Shirley said Nygren is familiar with the campaign platforms because he helped in their development and can deliver those messages effectively.

Nygren said he understands young Navajos think they do not have representation in tribal politics, but he views his candidacy as an opportunity to bring their voice to the presidential office.

"I want to be that voice for them," he said.

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

Community members welcome Navajo vice presidential candidate Buu Van Nygren Wednesday during a campaign event at the Nataani Nez Restaurant in Shiprock.

After news about Nygren's selection was posted on social media, several comments focused on his ethnicity and his ability to speak the Navajo language.

Nygren was raised by his mother and grandmother in Red Mesa, and Navajo was his first language.

"I think this is actually challenging our own people to say, 'When you're Diné, you're Diné. Whether you're half or whether you're a quarter. As long as you're a member of this nation, you're Diné.' …In my heart, I'm Navajo, and that's what I want to express to everybody," he said.

He added the campaign is about inclusion and pushing differences aside to develop one nation.

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.