A newly appointed AZ State Senator from Apache County who also happens to be a member of the Navajo Tribe and a Democrat, Carlyle Begay, is being accused of not actually having residency in said county. Begay was appointed to replace Jack Jackson Jr who left to work in the Obama Administration. I don’t know if the charges are true or not. I do know that establishing residence is kind of strange for Native Americans who frequently are “residents” of their Reservation and also own land outside of it. There were two people who pushed to have this issue raised: Attorney Tom Ryan of Chandler, who specializes in election law, and a fellow Democratic State Representative Albert Hale. Hale, also Native American, was a rival for the appointment and obviously not real happy about being passed over.
Here’s a little context. Apache County is the 6th largest county in the U.S. It’s population is about 77% Native American (more residents speak Navajo than English) and it is also one of the poorest places to live in the country. To qualify that statement, I am speaking about economic poverty not the actual worth of the County. If wealth were measured in beauty residents would be among the richest in the U.S. because of it’s incredibly beautiful landscape. Indeed, if land were wealth (it used to be but not any more) Native Americans would be among the richest. The majority of Apache County is comprised of Reservations. In fact, more than a quarter of Arizona is actually Reservation land and Native Americans make up over 5% of the state’s population. Contrast this with a State Legislature that has only two Native Americans (one in the Senate and one in the House). The rest of the state legislature is predominantly white men. The Apache County Attorney’s office is also predominantly white men. Furthermore, make note that the Apache County Attorney’s office who is bringing these charges doesn’t have the cleanest record. Rep. Albert Hale, who was formerly President of the Navajo Nation (1994-1998), left the office in disgrace, racking up over 50 felonies and misdemeanors for theft and bribery. His attendance record in the state legislature is abysmal. Begay on the other hand is younger and has experience in health care management and public policy, something that is always a big issue on the remote, rural Reservations.
From my VERY outside point of view….this whole kerfuffle seems to be about those in power wanting to stay in power. it seems like the older corrupt Navajo, Hale, is using his powerful white buddies to harass and eliminate the competition of the younger and less biddable man, Begay. This kind of “fighting over the scraps” is just stupid. Hale, if he really wanted to serve the people of his county, should join forces with Begay and work together for the good of the people of Apache County, and in the end, they should oppose the bloc of conservative white men that have run and will continue to run this state into the ground. The way it stands now, no matter what happens, the people of Apache County will continue to be underrepresented and underserved.