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Delegate Begay Not Ready to Back Zwierlein

Delegate Begay Not Ready to Back Zwierlein
October 27
05:12 2021

Begay Questions Veterans Nomination

By John Christian Hopkins

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay, Jr. isn’t ready to back James Zwierlein’s nomination to the Committee for Tribal and Indian Affairs at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

“It is utterly disappointing that President Jonathan Nez nominated a non-Navajo to represent the concerns of our Navajo veterans for this important committee at the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Begay said.

Zwierlein is executive director of the Navajo Nation Veterans Association. He is not an enrolled member of the tribe.

Begay had also expressed interest in the position.

In June, the VA requested the Navajo Nation to nominate qualified candidates to be considered for appointment as a member of the Advisory Committee on Tribal and Indian Affairs (ACTIA). Nez immediately nominated Zwierlein to the ACTIA.

“It is obvious that President Jonathan Nez and the Navajo Nation Washington Office lack communication with the Legislative Branch,” Begay  said. “It is concerning that James Zwierlein tries to lead the Navajo Veterans Administration with no respect for local veteran organizations.”

An honorably discharged E-5 Sergeant in the United States Army, Begay earned the Army Service Ribbon, the National Defense Medal, an Overseas Service Ribbon, the Army Achievement Medal, the Marksmanship Badge, the Good Conduct Medal and the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon.

“Many agency veterans organizations have passed resolutions with a vote of no confidence in the leadership of James Zwierlein,” Begay added. “Since July, I submitted a resume and my credentials to the Navajo Nation Washington Office for this position but there has been no response, no consultation. That is unacceptable for me and disrespectful to our Navajo veterans.” In October, a letter was sent to the VA Director of Tribal Government Relations, Stephanie Birdwell, questioning the appointment process and the criteria utilized for the evaluation and selection of Zwierlein, according to Begay.

No formal response was provided by Ms. Santee Lewis, Navajo Nation Washington Office executive director, or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Delegate Begay has the experience and proven record to effectively advocate for our Native American veterans across Indian Country,” Navajo Speaker Seth Damon said. “As an honorably discharged veteran, he understands local veterans issues and is a champion for our Gold Star and Blue Star families.”

Begay would have been an outstanding representative in this role, Damon added.

In August, the Naabik’íyáti’ Committee passed Resoltuion No. NABIAU-25-21 sponsored by Begay that reaffirms previous resolutions requesting the United States Congress and the Biden Administration to establish direct veterans services on the Navajo Nation.

“It is important for the Navajo people to know that a non-Navajo was appointed by the federal government at the urging of the Navajo Nation Washington Office to represent our Native American veterans nationally,” Begay said. “The Council is always here with our Navajo veterans and their families. This appointment of James Zwierlein is another example of how the Department of Veterans Affairs has failed us.”

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Summary: Navajo Delegate Begay Not Ready to Back Zwierlein

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