First ladies of the Navajo Nation advocate for change
Phefelia Herbert Nez, Dottie Lizer ask for a return to faith, prayer
FORT DEFIANCE, Ariz. — As Jonathan Nez stepped into office as president of the Navajo Nation Jan. 15, one of his first commitments was to honor and recognize female leaders, including his wife First Lady Phefelia Nez and Second Lady Dottie Lizer.
The first and second lady both addressed the crowd of more than four thousand and introduced their husbands during the inauguration at Fort Defiance. Their messages mirrored and complimented one another, offering gratitude to supporters and issuing challenges to the Nation.
“We truly believe that everything happens for a reason through God’s eyes,” said Dottie Lizer. “This reason may be that our people crave prayer and see a different perspective of governance and leadership. I believe that our president and vice president are capable of delivering that purpose.”
Lizer said she will be an advocate of Dine women, children, elders and vulnerable populations.
“I also will do whatever it takes to instill hope and encouragement in the hearts of our people,” she said. “Our people need love, hope and faith. But they need a little push from someone to see the richness of their lives.”
Her desire to address domestic violence and violence against women was met with clapping and cheering from the crowd.
“By taking the stand — the victims, the survivors, their children, family and communities can heal and our Dine society would have the capability to break the cycle,” she said. “We are sacred and precious beings and our people should live without fear, abuse and neglect. Anything is possible through the works of God. Prayer and hard work will allow the Navajo Nation to heal and grow.”
Nez gave specific ways the Nation could support and build healthy lives and communities.
She encouraged volunteerism and its ability to contribute to the well-being of both individuals and communities.
“Volunteerism engages citizens to help a cause such as eliminating poverty, improving health, education, environment or decreasing violence,” she said. “Volunteerism gives a sense of belonging and purpose.”
Nez used faith as an example of the resilience of the Navajo, stating the Navajo people have survived because of their faith, which allowed them to experience new beginnings.
“Today I challenge you to plant your seed of faith because our ancestors have paid a great price and made too many sacrifices for you to stop. This is our time to leave our mark in history,” she said. “The way of prayer is truly the way of life.”
“To live a healthy life we must put prayer as a priority,” she added.
Nez recalled the support garnered throughout their campaign by Navajo families and communities.
“I saw in person the love that we express for one another. Love is selfless and has the power to change everything for the better,” she said. “We cannot see it our touch it however love is a decision we make. The decision to treat and show love to a person in the way that God loves us. When we choose to commit ourselves to love others the Nation will heal and prosper. Love does conquer all.”
Finally, as a homeschool mother of two boys, Nez encouraged parents to mold their children to become contributing members of society.
“As parents it’s our job to build a strong foundation at home so our children can succeed and respect others,” she said.