ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Edward T. Begay, who was vice chairman of the Navajo Nation in the 1980s, died Sunday, according to his family. He was 87.
No cause of death was given by Begay’s family, but they said he died in Albuquerque surrounded by family members.
"On behalf of the Navajo Nation, we offer our condolences and prayers to Honorably Begay's family. We also thank his loved ones for sharing his life with us and for all of their family's contributions to our Navajo people," said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez in a statement. "He was a very loving and caring person who always put the people first. We pray that his family takes comfort in knowing that he is with God and watching over them now."
On Sunday, Begay's family stated, "Ed T. was a loving husband, caring father, and gracious grandfather, but to many, he was Cheii. we will miss him at our dinner table, sitting next to us in church, and listening to his stories of the journeys his life has taken him on. We are extremely proud of his service to the Navajo Nation, the State of New Mexico, and his tribal home communities."
Begay was head of the legislative branch during some key moments in tribal government.
He also presided over the Navajo Nation Council when the tribe incorporated traditional, natural and customary laws into its government system.
Begay, who grew up in New Mexico, Begay represented the Churchrock and Breadsprings Chapters on the tribal council from 1971-83.
As vice chairman from 1983-87, Begay worked closely with the council to renegotiate mineral, coal, oil, and gas leases with major energy companies.
Begay was elected speaker of the 88-member council in 1999 and served two terms and worked to get the first gambling compact with New Mexico and Arizona in place.
Begay's family said funeral plans were pending.