The Coconino County Board of Supervisors and the County Manager’s Office were saddened to hear of the recent passing of two Navajo lawmakers who made lasting contributions to the Navajo Nation and Arizona over their long careers of public service.
Former Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah passed away Tuesday evening at the age of 85. Zah served as Chairman of the Navajo Nation from 1981 to 1987. In 1985 he worked with the Council to create the Navajo Nation Permanent Trust Fund, an investment that continues to provide financial stability and public benefits to the Navajo community today.
“President Zah was guided by love for his family and for the people,” said Supervisor for District 4, Judy Begay. “We’ve lost a truly wonderful soul whom we all loved and were inspired by his wisdom, advocacy, and leadership.”
In 1990 Zah was elected the first President of the Navajo Nation, serving until 1995. As an advocate for Indigenous rights and participation in Democracy, he appeared frequently on local radio during election season to educate the people about their voting rights, the candidates and ballot measures, and to encourage voter registration. He was also a tireless advocate for public education funding to help Navajo students achieve advanced degrees, become self-sufficient, and contribute to their communities.
“President Zah worked collaboratively with Coconino County during his term strengthening the enduring relationship between the Nation and Coconino County,” added Chair of the Board Patrice Horstman.
County Officials were also saddened by the passing of former State Senator and Navajo Council Delegate, Jack Jackson Sr., this past Sunday. Jackson’s greatest legacy to the Navajo people is his 1999 bill allotting Transaction Privilege Tax funds to tribal educational institutions. The bill originally provided $17.5 million in funding to Diné College over a 10-year period and has since been renewed twice. Another initiative Jackson spearheaded at Diné College was to include traditional Navajo teachings in the curriculum.
“I wish to convey my deepest sympathy and condolences to their family and to the Navajo people at this difficult time,” added Supervisor for District 5 Lena Fowler. “We had two great leaders who embodied the Navajo essence in everything they did for others. They knew who they were, and preserved the values and traditions of their culture, while continuously working for the advancement of all people. They leave behind an enduring legacy of leadership firmly grounded in their language and culture, which will positively impact the Navajo people and the people of Arizona for generations to come.”
Senator Jackson cared deeply about the people he served and worked hand-in-hand with Coconino County leadership while in the Arizona State Senate and as a Navajo Nation Council Delegate to ensure greater educational opportunities were available for children across the state and within the Navajo Nation.