Joe Shirley Jr.

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Joe Shirley Jr.
Joe Shirley.jpg
6th President of the Navajo Nation
In office
January 14, 2003[1] – January 11, 2011
Vice President Frank Dayish Jr. (2003-2007)
Ben Shelly (2007-2011)
Preceded by Kelsey A. Begaye
Succeeded by Ben Shelly
Personal details
Born (1947-12-04) December 4, 1947 (age 70)
Chinle, Arizona
Nationality  Navajo Nation and
Spouse(s) Vikki Shirley
Residence Chinle, Arizona
Occupation Apache County Supervisor

Joe Shirley Jr. (born December 4, 1947) is a Navajo politician who is the only two-term President of the Navajo Nation. He served as president from 2003 to 2011. He lives in Chinle, Arizona, and is Tódích'íi'nii, born for Tábaahá. As of 2018, he has dedicated 48 years of service to the Navajo people.

Career and life[edit]


Joe Shirley is a graduate of Chinle High School (66'). He attained an Associates of Arts Degree in (68') from Magic Valley Christian College, a Bachelor of Science in Business from Abilene Christian University (73') and a Masters in Social Work from Arizona State University (78'). In 2005, Northern Arizona University bestowed upon Shirley an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for his 35 years of continued service to the Navajo community.[2]

Professional working experience[edit]

Mr. Shirley worked in social services for 15 years as a social worker where he had extensive first-hand exposure to the severe problems and devastation within Navajo communities. From 1983 to 1984, he served as Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services.

Family and personal life[edit]

Mr. Shirley was born on the great Navajo Nation in Chinle, AZ and raised by his grandmother since he was a toddler. Dr. Shirley is married to Vikki Shirley, MBA, and they have three sons and three daughters.[3] Vikki is Kiyaa'nni born for the Ma'iidesh giizhnii clan. Her parents are Victor Moses Begay and Gladys Begay of Lukachukai, Arizona. Mr. Shirley enjoys Navajo ceremonies, NAC meetings, going to Church on Sundays, showcasing his artwork through silversmith, singing at Song & Dance events, being a loving husband, father, and grandpa. Since December 2001, after the death of their daughter to a drunk driver, the Shirley family has been heavily involved with MADD.[4]

Navajo Nation President 2003–2011[edit]

Milestone Accomplishments during the Shirley Administration[edit]

  • Bennett Freeze was ended after 40 years
  • Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise is established
  • San Juan River Water Rights were secured
  • Reduced Council from 88 to 24 & empowered the President with line-item veto power

The Complete Shirley Record as President: Working with the People and Navajo Nation Council[edit]

  • $554 Million Settlement - The Shirley Administration and NDOJ filed a lawsuit known as Historical Mismanagement of Trust Fund Assets that eventually led to a $554 million settlement (Shi’Hasin Fund)
  • $1 Billion Settlement - The Shirley Administration and NDOJ filed a lawsuit for uranium clean up against Anadarko Petroleum and former parent Kerr-McGee Corporation resulting in Navajo receiving $1 Billion for clean up.
  • $5.5 million Federal Settlement - The Mobil Oil corporation pays for oil spill clean-up.
  • Dine Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 - Signed legislation into law to officially ban all uranium mining.
  • San Juan River Water Settlement - $870 million Navajo-Gallup pipeline now under construction that will bring water to 80,000 Navajos.
  • Dine Sovereignty in Education Act - Created the Navajo Nation Board of Education & reformed our education system.
  • Advocacy for Protection of the Navajo Language - Advocated for international support of Navajo Nation sovereignty, its uranium ban & for the protection of the San Francisco Peaks before the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
  • Decriminalization of azee - use by Azee Bee Nahagha of Dine Nation.
  • Protection of the San Francisco Peaks - Advocated before the federal district court & 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for its protection.
  • Protection of the San Francisco Peaks - Advocated before the Federal District Court & 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • President Shirley was selected to represent the world’s 370 million indigenous people at the United Nations World Summit in Tunisia. He addressed an assembly of 191 member countries.
  • Creation of the Navajo Gaming Regulatory Office & Navajo Gaming Enterprise - The President helped create over 1,400 jobs with 85% of these employees to be members of the Navajo Nation.
  • Intergovernmental Compact to end to Bennett Freeze - President Obama signed this law repealing the Bennett Freeze on May 8, 2009.
  • Official end to the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute - On September 21, 2010, the Navajo Nation & the Hopi Tribe filed a Notice of Settlement & Voluntary Dismissal of Appeal in the original 1958 Healing vs. Jones lawsuit that ultimately led to the 1974 Navajo Hopi Relocation Act. This action closed the book on 52 years of relocation.
  • United States EPA & Navajo EPA - Federal clean up of radium- contaminated soil at Coyote Canyon Chapter.
  • Navajo Nation AUM Screening Assessment Report - EPA announces cleanup at Northeast Church Rock Mine, Mariano Lake Mine, Quivira Mine, Skyline Mine, Cove Transfer Stations, Sections 32 and 33, Ruby Mines 1-4, and 20 mine claims in Cameron Chapter.
  • $140 million pooling agreement with Arizona tribes.
  • $350 million renegotiation of El Paso Natural Gas pipeline.
  • $600 million breach of trust lawsuit against Peabody Coal in U.S. Supreme Court - Results in $50 million settlement for the Nation.
  • Successful Initiative Election - Reduction of the Navajo Nation Council & Presidential Line Item Veto
  • Navajo Nation Government Reform - After a decade of Navajo People seeking the reduction of the Navajo Nation Council, President Shirley launched the 1st successful initiative drive to have the people change Navajo Law. On December 14, 2009, Navajo voters reduced the Council form 88 to 24 delegates & granted the Navajo president line-item veto authority to bring greater accountability to spending & prevent repeated waiver of Navajo Nation law.
  • President Shirley successfully defends Council attempts to overturn the Dec 15, 2009, special initiative election.
  • Public Safety has been a top priority of President Shirley. President Shirley increased the number of police officers from 171 to 373 police officers on the Navajo Nation. By the end of 2006, there were more than 400 Navajo Nation Police Officers in the field to protect and serve the Navajo people. Officers at that time were equipped with the state of the art equipment and modern vehicles
  • Navajo M.A.D.D. and creation of the S.T.E.P. Team. During President Shirley’s administration the Nation Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, with the help of First Lady Vicky Shirley, in bringing the Navajo Nation a chapter of M.A.D.D. The S.T.E.P. (Selective Traffic Enforcement Program) Team was also initiated under President Shirley's Administration greatly reducing the number of drunk drivers on the Navajo Nation’s Roads.
  • Safeguarding our Natural and Cultural Resources. President Shirley and the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency successfully moved to take over the air monitoring and administration of permits of the Navajo Generating Station located on the Navajo Nation in Lechee, AZ. This essentially brought in to the Navajo Nation, fees in the amount $700,000 per year.
  • Fiscal Accountable in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. President Shirley was always safeguarding funding that was earmarked through the appropriations act, which ensures that we will have land for generations to come.
  • Antelope Point Marina. Under President Shirley’s administration, the Antelope Point Marina was completed. This project was the first of its kind on the Navajo Nation, and it brought together the necessary resources to make this development a reality.
  • Navajo Nation - F.E.M.A. Relations. Under the administration, President Shirley initiated a Memorandum of Understanding that streamlined the Federal reimbursement process through the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
  • Defense of Dine’ Fundamental Law against attacks by the Council. Resulted in Supreme Court ruling May 28, 2010, which found Dine Fundamental Law is immutable as given to the Dine by the Holy Ones & may not be “enacted” or changed by the Council.
  • Signs documents for $60 Million loan from KeyBank to be used to build new judicial & correctional facilities in Crownpoint & Tuba City. Considered the first major institutional financing deal governed exclusively by tribal laws & subject to tribal jurisdiction, in full recognition of Navajo Nation sovereignty. KeyBank agreed that any legal dispute arising from the agreement would be heard in Navajo courts according to Navajo law.

In 2002, Joe Shirley and Frank Dayish (Shirley's political running mate) entered the race for the Presidency of the Navajo Nation and defeated incumbent President Kelsey Begaye[5] with 31,406 votes to 23,964 cast for Begaye.[6] Joe was inaugurated as the President of the Navajo Nation on January 14, 2003, in Window Rock, AZ.[1]

In 2006, Shirley selected Thoreau, New Mexico, Council delegate Ben Shelly as his vice presidential running mate during his second bid for Navajo Executive Office. On election day, Shirley became the first Navajo to be re-elected to the office of Navajo President since the office was reformed from a Chairmanship to Presidency.[7] Former New Mexico State Representative Lynda Lovejoy was his opponent during the 2006 Navajo Nation Election. By a small majority of the popular vote, Joe Shirley and Ben Shelly were elected. They were inaugurated in January 2007.

In 2008, Shirley announced his endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton for president of the United States.[8] On June 14, 2008, Shirley was awarded the Barry Goldwater Human Rights Corporate Award, in recognition of support of Navajo LGBT rights after the veto of the 2005 Diné Marriage Act.[9] In 2009, President Barack Obama made Shirley a member of the Federal Department of Homeland Security's Advisory Council.[10] On December 11, 2009, Navajo voters voted to reduce the Navajo Nation Tribal Council from 88 to 24 members, a reform of which was described as a substantial success for Shirley's administration's reform advocacy.[11] In 2010, Shirley's administration was investigated for impropriety.[12] The Controversy around Desert Rock Coal Energy Plant also circulated around the Shirley Administration.[13] In February 2014, charges were dismissed against Shirley's alleged role in discretionary spending irregularities.[14]

2014 Navajo presidential election[edit]

In 2014, Shirley stood as a presidential candidate with Dineh Benally as his vice president.[15] In the primary election, Shirley garnered 10,910 votes, followed by Chris Deschene with 9,374[16] (the Navajo Court would later remove Deschene from the election and replace him with runner up in the Primary Russell Begaye). The Navajo Supreme Court postponed the 2014 General Election,[17] which was later scheduled by the Navajo Nation Election Administration to be held as a Special Presidential Election on April 21, 2015 with Dr. Joe Shirley Jr. and Russell Begaye running for the Navajo Nation Presidential ticket in the rescheduled General Election.[18] On April 21, 2015, after the 7pm deadline for the Presidential election, Shirley and Dineh Benally received 15,439 votes (37.49%) against opponent Russell Begaye and Jonathan Nez receiving 25,745 votes (62.51%).[19]

Apache County Supervisor 1984–2003, 2012–Present[edit]

In 1984, Joe Shirley Jr. began his term as Apache County Supervisor for District I and continued to serve for 18 years before he was elected President of the Navajo Nation. Shirley was instrumental in expanding road maintenance services and the size of the road yard, and construction of the fleet shop.

After completing his terms as Navajo Nation President, he was re-elected in 2012 and serves as chairman of the board of supervisors.

Navajo Nation Council 1986–1999[edit]

Mr. Shirley served on Navajo Nation Council from 1986 to 1999. While on the council, he was the chairman of the Labor and Manpower Committee, served on the Advisory Committee from 1987 to 1991, chairman of the Tax Commission from 1991 to 1995, member of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee and chairman of the Ethics and Rules Committee from 1995 to 1998.[6]

Awards and appointments[edit]

Through the years, he has been the recipient of numerous awards and appointments recognizing his leadership in public life. In 1996, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Counties in Washington, D.C. This organization comprises more than 3,000 counties throughout the United States. In 1997, he served as a member of the Advisory Committee to the President's Commission of Sustainable Communities in Washington, D.C., and from 1985 to 1991 was a member of the Public Lands Committee. Dr. Shirley has served as co-chair of both the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Budget Advisory Council and the Sovereignty Protection Initiative. In 2005, he received the Sovereignty Award from the National Indian Gaming Association, the Nuclear-Free Future Award from the Franz Moll Foundation and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the Distinguished Citizen Award presented by the University of New Mexico-Gallup. In 2007, he was awarded a distinguished alumnus citation by his alma mater, Abilene Christian University. In 2009, he was appointed to the national Homeland Security Advisory Council under the Department of Homeland Security.


  1. ^ a b "Navajo inauguration is all-day event". 2003-01-08. Retrieved 2012-07-09.[dead link]
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  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-11. Retrieved 2014-12-05.
  5. ^ "Joe Shirley elected Navajo Nation President"
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 2014-12-07. Retrieved 2014-12-05.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-08. Retrieved 2014-12-05.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-09. Retrieved 2014-12-05.
  19. ^
Preceded by
Kelsey A. Begaye
President of the Navajo Nation
Succeeded by
Ben Shelly