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Wenona Benally Baldenegro, from Kayenta, Ariz., hopes to become the first American Indian woman to serve in Congress in continuance to help the Navajo Nation.
Baldenegro plans to run as a Democratic candidate for Congress in Arizona’s Congressional District 1, which the Navajo Nation is under, and is considering a run for the U.S. House of representatives.
“As the Navajo Nation faces possible elimination of crucial federal services and programs, the Navajo people need a candidate who will fight to protect jobs and services that are essential to our survival and development,” she said.
The candidate once worked as a health and cultural resource project specialist at the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, where she advised Congress and the federal agencies on health care needs of American Indians, and helped tribes protect cultural sites.
Baldenegro obtained a Master’s degree in public policy and a Juris doctor degree from Harvard University, a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at summa cum laude and an alumna of Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, where she is the first Native student to graduate within the honors.
“For the past 10 years, I’ve focused my career on formulating policies and laws at the tribal, state and federal levels promoting economic and community development,” she said. “As the congresswoman for the Navajo Nation, I will advocate for legislation and policies supporting tribal sovereignty and rural development.”
Baldenegro is from the Tsi’naaajinii clan and born for the Honaghaanii clan. Grandfather is from the Ta’neezahnii and paternal grandfather from the Tabaahi clan. She is married to Salomon F. Baldenegro, a Mexican-American from Tucson, Ariz.
She was raised in a single-parent home and “motivated by her mother to attend college in order to seek a better life.”
KAYENTA, AZ – “It’s called planting a new seed in a field for harvest. Our whole Navajo philosophy of anilt’anii, it is based on the corn beetle nourishing the planted seeds, that’s what we’re doing. This is not a ground breaking,” said the Navajo Nation Vice-President Rex Lee Jim. The crowd of just under 100 people in Kayenta slowly trickled in and sat facing south to a makeshift stage, just north of the old Kayenta District court, as they used their day’s agenda as a shade and visor from the late morning’s glaring sun as they enjoyed the Kayenta Mutlipurpose Justic Center Ground Breaking Ceremony, March 11, 2011. The ceremony began promptly at 11:00 am with Stepahnie Baldwin from the Central Window Rock Department of Corrections serving as the Master of Ceremony.
Due to the enormity of people who served throughout time as visionaries, planners, facilitators, advocates, service providers, and community leadership, it was hard for most of the speakers to name all who had partaken in bringing the multi-purpose Justice Center to its milestone moment this Friday morning, so in the traditional Navajo prayer that was provided by Shonto Chapter President Lorenzo Isaac, the place names were also mentioned of the community that will one day become a city. Entering his first years as Town Manager, Hygi Watermans dressed in professional attire, stood in solidarity with locals by wearing a turquoise necklace with a red abalone stones as a choker, “This is a project that has taken many days and nights, beyond the scope of the usual 8:00 am to 5:00 pm workload. Having been here only for a short time, I realize that the community of Kayenta has worked hard to reach another milestone for a properous future. I know this is something that did not just happen overnight,” he said.
Afterwards, mostly the Window Rock leadership and Kayenta Multi-Purpose Justice Center Partnerships were given the floor to speak. Navajo Nation Vice-President Rex Lee Jim took the podium and spoke mainly in the Navajo language, he joked about having grown old with the Council focusing on this project. “When I first became a member of the Navajo Nation Council as a Delegate in 2003, we we’re all really young at the time,” he said. “At that time, we were approached by many on the Council floor telling us that we could not make this happen. I remember Delores Greyeyes, at that time, she was touting a copy of the Master Strategic Plan. Since that time, we’ve had a lot of fun and we’ve had a lot of good times putting the plan together,” he said. Eventually, as the Mastern Strategic Plan became more realistic, the honorable Council Delegate Jim was voted in to Chair the Public Safety Committee. Given the opportunities, they made frequent trips to Washington D.C. to lobby for monies that eventually became a $74 million dollar-plus American Reinvestment Rehabilitation Act (ARRA) project for the Kayenta community. Then in a moment of reflection, he remembered the late and honorable Navajo Natio Council Delegate Tom Lapahe, a long time advocate for the Kayenta Township, who told Vice-President Jim to stand strong on his traditional Navajo values. “Because you are young, you’re a Healer, and a Blessing Way chanter,” Lapahe told Jim, “You have to lead and don’t sway across fences in your politics.” Sure enough, on the day of the ceremony in Kayenta, Rex Lee Jim, the new Navajo Nation Vice-President thanked the surveyors, Township staff, Kayenta Chapter, local leadership, the Kayenta Police Department, and fellow Public Safety Committee members, and the community, “It is because of your hard work and dedication that this has become a reality. Your willingness to work together made this happen. You make us look good,” he said. The Public Safety Committee under his tutelage has enjoyed three groundbreakings this year: in Crownpoint, New Mexico, Tuba City, and Kayenta, Arizona for Public Safety facilities on the Navajo Nation.
Afterwards, the new Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, Johnny Naize spoke to the audience. As he scanned the audience, he looked for former Kayenta Township Commissioners to thank them for their persistence and dedication to this project. “We must also thank the land owners, the permittee holders who relinquished their lands to make Kayenta what is is today. Kayenta, Arizona is not going anywhere. It’s only going to stay here and the town is going to grow exponentially,” he said. He eshchewed the major players not to fall behind on thier timelines and to stay on track with the rigorous ARRA funding guidelines.
“Don’t forget the restorative justice element, which has been the basis and reasoning for building this project,” warned Jonathan Nez, Navajo Nation Council Delegate and member of the Navajo County Board of Supervisors. “Let’s follow the Honorable Katherine Benally’s suggestion that we enforce a revolving door effect in our community. The community must become involved in make sure our youth do not get stuck within the system.” As each current or former Council Delegate spoke, the narrative could not leave out the work and advocacy of Delores Greyeyes, Director of Public Safety and Kayenta Township Commissioner.
As some of you regular visitors may have noticed, the Kayenta Today Blog site has been down for a number of days. This was due to a major upgrade from WordPress. The latest version of WordPress 3.1 was not compatible with the Cutline 3 Column Split theme that we were using for the Kayenta Today Blog. We were forced to utilize a different WordPress theme in order for the latest version of WordPress 3.1 to work.
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