FLAGSTAFF - Jamescita Peshlakai defied the cold to declare her intention to seek the District Five Coconino County Supervisor seat at a press conference held at Buffalo Park Jan. 17. This seat is currently held by fellow Navajo Nation member Louise Yellowman, who was the first Native American to be seated on the board in 1980.
The Peshlakai family is deeply rooted in advocating for their people and their land-Beshligaii Adsitdii (1845-1947) traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Theodore Roosevelt about problems among the different cultures living in the region, and successfully sought annexation of what is now the western agency of the Navajo Nation. Adsitdii's son, Clyde Peshlakai (1885-1972) also assisted his people on land issues. Clyde's son and Jamescita's father, James Peshlakai, has also been active throughout his life in helping his people through economic development, education and land issues.
Peshlakai is proud of her impressive family history of public service preceding her, so she, too, decided to seek public office in order to serve the people of District Five. Peshlakai recognizes that there are many interest groups throughout the district, and has committed to bringing these groups together for discussion.
"I will be holding meetings to address the needs of the diverse people of District Five," she said. "That includes reservation communities, border towns, ranchers, river runners and boaters, those in the service industry, those depending on tourism, and veterans."
Peshlakai is of the Tangle People Clan, born for the Red-House Clan, Maternal grandchild of the Deer Water Clan and paternal grandchild of the Cliff Dweller Clan. She was born and raised in District Five, attended school in Flagstaff and then moved on to Tuba City public schools. She holds a bachelor's degree in history with a minor in philosophy and also holds a master's degree in education psychology, both from Northern Arizona University.
She has worked in the education and social services fields, and served in the first Persian Gulf War (Desert Storm) during her eight years in the U.S. Army.
Most recently she worked at Native Americans for Community Action (NACA) as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Program Director.
"As a working mother of two children I have struggled and accomplished much in my life," Peshlakai said. "It is with a great sense of duty and obligation that I step forward and announce my candidacy for the honorable position of County Supervisor for District Five."
Her convictions include innovative leadership for economic development keeping in mind how the global economy trickles down and affects the people of District Five. She will address the cost of living issues that are unique to District Five: food, fuel, energy, utilities, transportation, agriculture, and housing.
"I will advocate for better workforce options: training, jobs, fair wages and addressing the realities of securing and retaining employment within the district, county, state and the greater nation," she continued.
"I will invest in our children, nurture our youth, care for our elderly and ultimately support healthy, positive families," she said. "I will commit to build supportive coalitions with social services and healthcare to serve and advocate for the people of District Five."
Further, Peshlakai promises to be an active steward for the environment, while encouraging environmentally friendly economic growth.
"I will advocate for military veterans, those currently serving and their families," Peshlakai concluded. "I will lead and foster respectful communication while representing the diversity of District Five and to advocate for the citizens of District Five."
A supporter asked Peshlakai about her platform as she and her family awaited the press and supporters to arrive.
Her father, James, answered that Navajos did not have platforms-they had convictions.
"Convictions are deep rooted," the elder Peshlakai said. "She saw her people struggling every day. Her great grandfather and grandfather did the same-they fought for their rights and for the rights of their people. Jamescita has seen her uncle, Gibson Jones (president of the Native American Vietnam Veterans group based in Tuba City) and his group struggle with helping people, helping to bury his fellow veterans. Gibson does this on his own. He doesn't get paid for it. He's not trying to get rich off of this work. That is conviction.
"Platforms are different, they can be changed," Peshlakai continued. "Your platform might be grey, and someone can come up and say, 'I don't like that platform, let's talk about money,' and the platform can be repainted green."
Veterans show support
Gibson Jones went out of his way to attend Peshlakai's announcement-he traveled from Tuba City to support Peshlakai before having to travel to Ganado for a meeting.
"I know that Jamescita served her country," Jones said. "I consider any female who is or was in the service as being brave, and I'm proud of our female veterans. Typically it has been the men who are in the service, but women must make special sacrifices. It's hard. Many of them have children who they must leave behind with their grandparents. I know that if she does win, she will support our veterans."
Carl Honeyestewa, a Hopi veteran from the Village of Moenkopi, also came to show his support, and to hear what Peshlakai had to say.
District 5 includes Timberline, Fernwood, Gray Mountain, Cameron, Desert View, Grand Canyon Village, Coppermine, Page, Tuba City and Navajo Mountain. The area also includes members of the Navajo, Hopi and Paiute Tribes.
Visit www.parterpagegoogle.com/peshlakai4supervisor.com for more updates on Peshlakai's campaign.