Here at the Window Rock High School Fighting Scouts Events Center in Fort Defiance, Ariz., where the Inauguration Ceremony for the 23rd Navajo Nation Council, Navajo Nation Board of Election Supervisors, and Navajo Nation Board of Education is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. It is now 10:24 a.m. and the events center, which seats 6,500 people, is not even half full.
The theme of the inauguration ceremony of is “Navajo Leadership – A Sovereign Nation.”
It is now 10:34 a.m. and Mistress of Ceremony Jocelyn Billy-Upshaw is introducing the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors, the Navajo Board of Education and the 23rd Navajo Nation Council.
The 23rd Council Delegates are LoRenzo Bates, Kee Allen Begay Jr., Mel Begay, Norman M. Begay, Nelson BeGaye, Benjamin L. Bennett, Nathaniel Brown, Tom Chee, Amber Kanazbah Crotty, Seth Damon, Jonathan Hale, Lee Jack Sr., Jonathan Nez, Jonathan Perry, Leonard H. Pete, Walter Phelps, Alton Joe Shepherd, Tanchony Slim Jr., Raymond Smith Jr., Otto Tso, Leonard Tsosie, Dwight Witherspoon, and Edmund Yazzie.
The Navajo Board of Election Supervisors are Bertha Aguirre, Leslie Chavez, Ruth Gilmore, and Watona Kellywood.
The Navajo Board of Education are Dolly C. Begay, Dr. Paulene M. Begay, Marlene Burbank, Delores Greyeyes, and Bernadetter Todacheene.
The Tohatchi, N.M., Veterans Organization posted the colors as Miss Navajo Nation McKeon Dempsey sang the National Anthem in the Navajo language.
Before giving the innovation, Navajo traditional Healer/Chanter Avery Denny reminds the elected officials and the spectators, “We can reclaim our land, our sovereignty. our sovereignty and land was not given to us by any man. it was given to us by the Holy Ones. we can deny our true self and we can do that with our language. we need to heal from historical trauma, that devastation that is in our communities.”
Denny’s prayer is part of the Navajo Protection Way ceremony and is a prayer of protection and healing for the elected officials and the Navajo people.