Navajo Nation mourns loss of former President Kelsey Begaye
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer are saddened to learn of the loss of former Navajo Nation President Kelsey Begaye, who passed away because of natural causes Aug. 13 in Flagstaff, Arizona, at the age of 70.
“My wife Phefelia and I offer our condolences and prayers for President Kelsey Begaye’s family. To his wife Marie and their children, we pray that you take comfort in knowing that your husband and father is now with God. Mr. Begaye was a very humble and loving person, who overcame adversities at a young age and turned to his faith to become a loving family man, a Vietnam veteran, and a great leader for his people. Throughout his lifetime, he drew his strength and determination from his faith and gave back so much to our Navajo people. He will be greatly missed,” Nez said.
Begaye was born on Jan. 7, 1951 in Kaibeto, Ariz. Begaye was of the Ashiihi (Salt people) clan and born for the Todich’iinii (Bitter water) clan. His maternal grandparents are the Honaghaahnii (One-walks-around) clan and his paternal grandparents are the Kinyaa’aanii (Towering House) clan.
Prior to his public service, Begaye served in the Vietnam War as a member of the United States Army. He later became a substance abuse counselor, helping many young people to overcome drug and alcohol abuse.
Before he was elected President, Begaye served as a local school board member, president and secretary/treasurer for Kaibeto Chapter, and two-terms as the Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council.
He served as the president of the Navajo Nation from 1999-2003 with former vice president Dr. Taylor McKenzie.
“On behalf of the Navajo Nation Council, we send our deepest condolences to Kelsey Begaye’s family at this difficult time. The nation has lost a great friend, mentor, and colleague who showed the skills of leadership and great determination," said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon. "He worked tirelessly as Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council and President of the Navajo Nation. The Council mourns with you and celebrates the extraordinary life of this remarkable man, who devoted his life to his family and the people of the Navajo Nation.”
Navajo Nation Chief Justice JoAnn B. Jayne offered condolences as well as those of the judicial branch.
“As Navajo Nation Council speaker, Navajo Nation president, and a Naat’áanii, he served our Diné with honor, justice and humility,” Jayne said. “We are grateful for his military service and for his public service and guidance to the Navajo people as a leader, mentor and counselor. Ahé’hee’. Our Nation pays tribute to the vision, mission, accomplishments, gifts, and generosity he bestowed upon the Diné.”
Vice President Myron Lizer also offered his condolences to Begaye’s family.
“He was a person of great faith who helped many others throughout his lifetime,” he said. “Our Nation is stronger and more prosperous because of his service and great leadership. He leaves behind a great legacy built on humility, service, and faith. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this time."
Begaye is survived by his wife, Marie Begaye, and five children. Their eldest son passed away in 2014.
Nez and Lizer called for all flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff to honor the former president and Damon ordered the flags in front of the Navajo Nation Council Chamber in Window Rock be raised at half-staff during this period.
A proclamation will be issued once details of the service are finalized.
The Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President continues to offer support to the family.