Navajo voters elect Buu Nygren as president, ousting Jonathan Nez

By: - November 9, 2022 4:12 am

Navajo Nation President-elect Buu Nygren celebrates his victory by shouting to his supporters on election night. Joining him, from left to right, were his wife, State Rep. Jasmine Blackwater Nygren, Navajo Nation Vice President-elect Richelle Montoya Chee, and her husband, Olsen Chee. (Photo by Shondiin Silversmith / Arizona Mirror)

Navajo Nation voters have elected a new president, as political newcomer Buu Nygren on Tuesday defeated incumbent Jonathan Nez.

All 110 chapters reported unofficial results after 11 p.m. on Nov. 8, showing Nygren with 34,568 votes and Nez just 31,069 votes, according to the Navajo Election Administration.

The Navajo Nation is one of the largest tribes in the United States, with nearly 400,000 citizens. About 175,000 of those live on the Navajo Nation.

Hundreds of supporters gathered with Nygren at the Navajo Nation fairgrounds to watch the results come in on election night. He sat on stage throughout the night alongside his wife, State Rep. Jasmine Blackwater Nygren, his running mate Richelle Montoya Chee, and her husband, Olsen Chee.

“Yes, a Buu is going to be your next Navajo Nation President,” Nygren said during his victory speech. He said that should serve as a reminder that it doesn’t matter what a person’s name is or if they’re only half Navajo, as he is.

“What matters to the Navajo people is that you have a heart to serve them,” he added.

Nygren is from Red Mesa. His Navajo clans are Táchii’nii (Red-Running-Into-The-Water Clan) born for Naa’ádaalts’ósí (Vietnamese), his maternal grandparents are Todích’íí’nii (Bitter Water Clan), and his paternal grandparents are Naa’ádaalts’ósí (Vietnamese).

Nygren thanked his supporters in both English and Navajo for their support as part of his victory speech inside the Navajo pavilion on the Navajo Nation.

“You all have put so much faith in me, and my campaign, and my running mate Richelle Montoya,” he said.

Nygren also talked about how they made history on election night because a Navajo woman will be vice president for the first time.

Chee is from Torreon, N.M., and served as president of the Torreon Chapter House. She is Hashtł’ishnii (Mud clan) and born for Ta’neeszahnii (Tangle clan). Her maternal grandfather is Kinłichii’nii (Red House clan), and her paternal grandfather is Táchii’nii (Red Running into Water clan).

“You all voted (for) change today,” Nygren said. “You all voted for Yideeską́ądi Nitsáhákees.”

Yideeską́ądi Nitsáhákees, meaning “Thinking For The Future” in Navajo, was Nygren and Montoya’s campaign slogan.

He spoke about how they waited four years for the election. Nygren ran in 2018 as a vice presidential candidate for then-presidential candidate Joe Shirley Jr.

Nygren said it was a tough race, but his team handled it and that throughout his campaign, he made it about the Navajo people.

“Tough races make tough leaders, right?” Nygren said to his supporters. “We want to do the things that are tough.”

President-elect Nygren and Vice President-elect Montaya will be sworn into office in Jan.

On election night, Nez also set up at the Navajo Nation fairground. His camp was a little more somber as the election results continued to roll in throughout the night. Nez showed up later in the night and thanked his supporters for the last four years.

The Nez campaign did not release a statement about the election results or the newly elected president.

Navajo Nation Board of Elections Supervisor Chair Melvin Harrison said the election went smoother than the primary, though there were a handful of machines that malfunctioned.

Harrison has been on the board for six years, and said he was surprised by the election results because, during the primary, Nez led the crowded field.

“With the results tonight, we have a new president,” Harrison said. “A lot of people are surprised, but also happy that we have a new young man as the Navajo president.”

The unofficial results go through a grievance period until Nov. 18, and then the Navajo Nation Election Administration will certify the results after that date if no grievances are filed.

The inauguration of the Navajo Nation General Election Officials of 2022 will be on Jan. 10, 2023.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: [email protected]. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Shondiin Silversmith, AZ Mirror
Shondiin Silversmith, AZ Mirror

Shondiin Silversmith is an award-winning Native journalist based on the Navajo Nation. Silversmith has covered Indigenous communities for more than 10 years, and covers Arizona's 22 federally recognized sovereign tribal nations, as well as national and international Indigenous issues. Her digital, print and audio stories have been published by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic, Navajo Times, The GroundTruth Project and PRX's "The World." Silversmith earned her master's degree in journalism and mass communication in Boston before moving back to Arizona to continue reporting stories on Indigenous communities. She is a member of the Native American Journalist Association and has made it a priority in her career to advocate, pitch and develop stories surrounding Indigenous communities in the newsrooms she works in.

MORE FROM AUTHOR