Arizona State MP Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren points to successes this year for Navajo Hopi watchers
PHOENIX – Arizona State Representative Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, Dem., Has seen successes this year since taking over her seat from Arlando Teller, who was appointed to the transportation division of the Biden-Harris Administration.
Legislature approved sports betting in tribal casinos, passed a bill recognizing the Navajo Code talkers, and a bill allowing Native Americans to wear their traditional insignia upon graduation.
Blackwater-Nygren is a member of the Mud People Clan, which was born to the Salt People Clan. Her maternal grandfather is a member of the Ute Red Running Water Clan and her paternal grandfather is a member of the Within His Cover Clan.
As a new lawmaker, Blackwater-Nygren said she had nothing to compare this year to previous years.
“But it’s going well. There are a lot of bills going on for the tribes, ”she said.
Blackwater-Nygren said it was special to be at the Heard Museum when Governor Doug Ducey signed the sports betting law approval. She said 21 of Arizona’s 22 tribes endorsed the sports betting deal.
Blackwater-Nygren said the Navajo Code Talker bill was special because her grandfather was a Navajo Code Talker.
As a freshman, Blackwater-Nygren had emphasized the importance of supporting the bills introduced by Teller.
“It is important for me to continue his legacy,” she said.
A priority for Blackwater-Nygren is Teller’s proposal to fund Hopi Route 60 for the paving. The road from Low Mountain to Polacca has had to be paved for decades.
“The road is in dire need of repair,” she said.
Blackwater-Nygren said it supports all infrastructure funds, especially infrastructure projects on reservations.
While Blackwater-Nygren and Teller are both Democrats, she said she enjoys working with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
“I want to build on these relationships and cultivate these relationships. We can’t get anything done with the majority of Republicans if we don’t work through the gang, ”she said. “Teller did well and I want to keep it that way. Some bills have been passed that we don’t believe in, but we have to navigate through these and those that are interesting. “
Blackwater-Nygren indicates that its district includes Hopi, Havasupai, Hualapai, San Carlos Apache, White Mountain Apache, Zuni, and Southern Paiute. She respects the sovereignty of the tribes and moves those tribes off on issues that affect them, such as the sports betting contract.
Blackwater-Nygren is concerned about voter suppression laws that affect all tribes.
“Indians have the lowest turnout of any minority population, and any electoral repression bills will make it worse,” she said.
Blackwater-Nygren said fortunately none of the Arizona voter suppression laws have been signed into law, and she hopes Governor Doug Ducey will uphold them. She said the President of the Navajo Nation, Jonatahn Nez, was helping her speak out against bills to suppress voters.
“As Democrats, we are strongly against these bills, but with Republicans in the majority it’s hard to fight,” she said.
Blackwater-Nygren is also supporting more funding for education.
“We’re always pushing for more funding for schools, but as a minority we don’t have a say,” she said. “We don’t know what the numbers will be. All public schools need more funding, including reservation schools. “
Blackwater-Nygren said other lawmakers are treating Native Americans with respect and that Navajo carpets are prominently placed upon entering the home. She said Arizona has a long history of being proud of tribes and showing deep respect for indigenous cultures. However, she said that this does not necessarily mean securing funding for necessary projects.
“But there is awe of tribes,” she said. “I feel good that even the most conservative members supported the bill to recognize the Navajo Code Talkers. After talking about the Code Talker, I got a standing ovation. “
Blackwater-Nygren said she also appreciated House spokeswoman Rusty Bowers visited the Navajo and Hopi reservations.
A law school graduate, Blackwater-Nygren was concerned about voter suppression laws and wanted to represent the Navajo and other tribal interests as well.
“I was looking for a place where I could thrive and influence tribal communities,” she said.
Raised in Red Mesa, she graduated from Monument Valley High School in Kayenta, Arizona. Regardless of where she goes, Blackwater-Nygren always makes time to return to her Red Mesa home.
In 2017 she graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts in Science and Technology with a focus on sustainability and the environment and a minor in Native American Studies.
Last year Blackwater-Nygren earned her law degree, including an Indian Law Certificate, from Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law.
During her legal training, she completed internships every summer, including positions on the Legislative Council of the Navajo Nation and the Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation.
Blackwater-Nygren thanked former MP Arlando Teller for her support during her first year of election.
“I know the amount of work he’s done and it’s a great honor to carry on his legacy,” she said. “I look forward to representing Legislative District 7.”
Blackwater-Nygren also thanked the Navajo County Regulatory Authority for the appointment of her and Jamesita Peshlakai State Senator and Myron Tsosie State Representative for the ropes presentation.
Blackwater-Nygren supports the movement to address the problem of murdered and missing indigenous women. There will be an event on May 5th to highlight the MMIW in the state capital as the area will be illuminated in red.
Blackwater-Nygren hopes to work on the state parliament’s committee of studies for murdered and missing Indigenous women, but they haven’t met this year because of the pandemic.