‘Power of jini’

Voters blame scandal for Begaye-Nez split


Tonalea community member and voter Majerle Lister believes the “power of jinii” could be a big reason why President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez are running against each other.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Newly elected Navajo Nation President-elect Russell Begaye, second left, and Vice President-elect Jonathan Nez walk to the Window Rock Sports Center with family and supporters on Apr. 21 after the votes from all 110 chapters are counted. Begaye and Nez defeated their opponents Joe Shirley, Jr., and Dineh Benally by a wide margin.

“It didn’t seem like an organic match,” Lister said. “Begaye-Nez felt like more out of necessity. I think public approval would be the strongest factor on why they split. “Anyone who’s on the rez and knows the power of jinii and government, even if it is true or not, and how jinii can influence public opinion on a president … they’ll recognize public opinion of Begaye did not go up, it kind of declined,” Lister said.

For the nearly four years the administration has been in office, there were many scandals regarding Begaye’s personal life and administration, including an alleged affair, high turnover, nepotism, and most recently his handling of his daughter’s intoxicated car crash. But, as for Nez, the only scandal was when he decided, against the advice of some traditionalists, to run from Hweeldi to Window Rock in commemoration of the 150-year anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of 1868.

“If Begaye’s public opinion weren’t so low or if the way he handled things didn’t affect his public approval, or his approval was high, (Nez) would’ve stayed on his ticket for re-election” said Lister. “I felt like Nez was keeping his distance and was building up his own social capital and political influence just in case this would be the issue.”

During the first presidential forum in Crownpoint on June 18, Nez said after discussing the political move with his family, they prayed about it and decided it was a perfect time for him to establish himself on his own and run for president.

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Categories: Politics

About Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council, Business, Fort Defiance Agency, New Mexico State politics and Art/fashion. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at abecenti@navajotimes.com.