Navajo Nation leaders congratulate Donald Trump on big victory

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, right, and Vice President Jonathan Nez are seen at a Navajo Nation Council session on October 17, 2016. Photo by Navajo Nation OPVP

The top two leaders of the Navajo Nation are encouraging unity as they congratulate Republican president-elect Donald Trump on his stunning Election Day victory.

Both President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race. But they are ready to move forward now that Trump is headed to the White House.

“In President-elect Trump’s victory speech last night, he spoke of unity, stating that now is the time for all Americans to come together despite political party delineations. He told the nation that he will be a president for all Americans. For us as Native American tribes, this is very important,” Begaye, who had thrown his support to Clinton last month, said in a press release on Wednesday.

“We need to have faith that the Trump-Pence administration will continue to work with tribes on a nation-to-nation and government-to-government basis with the impetus of moving legislations forward that consider the best interests of tribal nations," Begaye said.

Nez was an early backer of the former Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator, served on the Hillary for America Arizona Leadership Council and even started a new slogan -- "Yeiya Trump" or "Scary Trump" -- to rally opposition to the Republican candidate. But he too is striving for for unity.

“The race for the 2016 presidential election has been contentious. As the votes have been tallied and the Trump-Pence administration has proved victorious, it is now time for tribal nations to step up and hold this administration accountable for working together in a unified manner,” said Nez.

“The Navajo Nation consistently works toward the same goals of successful economic development to improve our economy," he added. "We face the same issues of needed infrastructure development, an improved educational system and effective care of our veterans. We look toward this incoming administration to work with us to improve these and many other areas that affect the Navajo Nation.”

The tribe counts allies from both parties largely due to the sheer size of its reservation and population base. In terms of acreage, the Navajo Nation is the largest in the United States, encompassing parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. A large number of tribal citizens live in urban areas in all three states.

The tribe's highest-profile issue, in terms of the federal government, has been the Gold King Mine disaster that polluted waters on the reservation last year A lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency -- which will be under new leadership once Trump takes office in January 2017 -- is pending in federal court.

The tribe's prior lawsuits over the management of its trust fund and its coal resources were settled by the Obama administration for $554 million.

In terms of citizenship, the Navajo Nation and the Cherokee Nation go back and forth on which tribe is the largest. Cherokee Chief Bill John Baker, incidentally, also backed Clinton in the election.

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