Obituary: Michael Riggs

Family, friends and colleagues from around the world mourn the passing of Michael Riggs, a member of the Navajo Tribe and resident of Tuba City. He was a key figure in expanding the United States' commitment to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa, the Caribbean and other impoverished areas of the world.

Born November 10, 1970, Riggs was of the Towering House clan, born for the Many Goats clan. His maternal grandfathers are the Blackstreak Woods clan and his paternal grandfathers are of the Bitterwater clan. He died at the age of 42 on May 24, 2013 after battling a long illness. He was buried in Tuba City on May 29.

Riggs attended Tuba City High School and Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and went on to work in Washington, D.C. and internationally on global AIDS issues for several years, leaving a legacy of work that has saved millions of lives.

As an aide to U.S. Representative Barbara Lee from California, Riggs was instrumental in the creation and passage of legislation which created the framework for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and led to the creation of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The organization is the single largest commitment by any nation to fight disease around the world.

After Riggs' work in the U.S. Congress, he went on to work for the United Nations' World Health Organization, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights Foundation and the Global AIDS Alliance. Many in the global community working to fight HIV/AIDS knew him as one of the most prominent and respected figures among their ranks.

He spent his last few years in Tuba City, battling a severe illness that eventually led to his death. While in Tuba City he put his energy in to work with the Navajo Water Rights movement, a community garden and organizing an annual community hike for youth and elders to Navajo Mountain.

He is survived by his father Earl Riggs and brother Justin Tyler Yazzie, as well as a large extended family and countless friends and colleagues around the world who were touched by his joy for living and passion for helping others.

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