Shelly takes oath of office, extends presidency

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly takes the oath of office Jan. 13 in Window Rock. Photo/Rick Abasta

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly takes the oath of office Jan. 13 in Window Rock. Photo/Rick Abasta

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz.-Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim took the oath of office at noon Jan. 13 and extended their presidency.

The decision to extend the term of office for Shelly came on the heels of a late night negotiation meeting and subsequent letter of agreement between executive and legislative branches of government.

The terms of the agreement state, "In the spirit of K'é and Hózhó the Executive and Legislative leaders have come together to talk things out in resolving a controversy that would impact the stability of the Navajo Nation."

The agreement further states that Shelly will maintain all power and duties under the provisions of the Navajo Nation Code. The president will meet with members of the 23rd Navajo Nation Council during the winter session to discuss the best interests of the nation moving forward.

Until then, Shelly and Jim will maintain the continuity of the Navajo Nation government until a new president is elected.

Chief Justice Herb Yazzie administered the oath of office at the Office of the President and Vice President. The State Room was packed with cabinet members, staff and members of the media to witness the event.

Standing in front of the mahogany Great Seal of the Navajo Nation, Shelly placed his left hand on the Bible and raised his right hand to take his oath of office.

Shelly repeated the oath after Yazzie:

"I, Ben Shelly, do solemnly swear to continue to uphold and abide by the laws of the Navajo Nation and Treaty of 1868 between the Navajo Nation and the United States of America, and will faithfully execute the Office of the Navajo Nation President, representing the Navajo Nation, and will to the best of my ability continue to preserve, protect and defend the laws and government of the Navajo Nation, and advance the interests of the Navajo people, having due regard for the ethical duties and responsibilities of the office. So help me God."

First lady Martha Shelly held the Bible and witnessed her husband's historic swearing in ceremony for the second time.

Jim was next and took his oath of office for the second term by swearing on his jish (medicine bundle), which his mother held. Jim signed the affidavit of certification, followed by Shelly.

"We'll keep it together until somebody shows up," Shelly said after he signed his name.

Cabinet members and others filed through to congratulate the president and vice president. The event was low key and lasted about 15 minutes. A press conference followed, where Shelly spoke about conducting "business as usual."

"The standard functions of a president's protocol, we will continue to do that," he said. "I will continue to function as a president, that's what we agreed to."

Approval or veto of tribal council legislation will continue, he added, noting that his standing as president will move forward with all authorities in place.

Shelly's staff and cabinet will continue on, if they chose to, he said. In the future, the president said he will return to private business as an entrepreneur.

Other options included running for state and national leadership.

"There's a lot of work to be done, the Navajo people need help," Shelly said.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, staff and cabinet members met with the president and vice president at the Navajo Nation Museum to discuss plans moving forward.

For the short time in office, staff must give 110 percent in order to complete projects that are still in progress. Shelly told everybody that maintaining continuity of government was the order of the day.

Shelly signed special run-off election legislation passed by the Navajo Nation Council into law Jan. 10. He also signed a bill that granted a pardon to the members of the Navajo Nation Board of Election Supervisors who were placed in contempt and stripped of their offices on Oct. 31.

The legislation nullified the August 2014 primary election and clears the way for a new special run-off election in 2015. The run-off election will take place in June and the special general election will take place in August, with a new president sworn into office in September.

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