By JESSICA OROZCO
Navajo Nation president Kelsey Begaye spoke to Navajo students Tuesday evening at the Wilkinson Student Center and encouraged them to get an education and to hold on to their culture and traditions.
“When we have strong leaders, we have a strong government and we certainly have a strong nation,” Begaye said.
Mili McQuiey, the Native American counselor for Multicultural Student Services, said Begaye requested to speak to the students.
“It’s always good to check up on students. I try to make time for them,” Begaye said.
Begaye said a Native American business summit in Park City was the purpose of his trip to Utah.
McQuiey said there are 182 Native Americans at BYU, 90 of which are Navajo. She said she was delighted to have Begaye come to speak to her students.
LaVay Talk, president of the Tribe of Many Feathers, a Native American club on campus, said it helps the students to have occasions like this.
“It rejuvenates the students,” LaVay said.
The Multicultural Student Organization welcomed Begaye with a Native American song. Begaye was touched by the song and showed it by shedding tears.
Dressed in a business suit and adorned with native jewelery, Begaye delivered his speech to the students. He said one of his commitments is to the youth, since he said he feels they are very important in their society. Begaye is also very active in gang intervention programs.
Getting students to be active participants in the government is another one of Begaye’s commitments.
“I provide opportunities for young people to be involved with the government. That door is now open,” he said.
Begaye encouraged students to get their degrees and go back to the reservation and help the tribe. He said the possibilities were there, and that’s why they were needed back home.
Monika Brown, 18, a freshman from Window Rock, Ariz., said she was very honored to have Begaye come to speak to them.
“I thought it was inspiring. It shows that he really cares about us,” Brown said.
After Begaye’s speech, he said he wanted to stay and visit with the students. They had the opportunity to converse and take pictures with the president.
Begaye said Navajo Nation is the largest Native American tribe in the United States with more than 270,000 members, which is roughly the population of the state of Virginia. It is an individual government that consists of three branches — the president, the speaker and the chief justice. Begaye said the tribe resides in three states — Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Arizona consists of 70 percent of the Navajo population, New Mexico 25 percent and Utah 5 percent.