Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by First Lady Jill Biden at the Navajo Nation
Window Rock, AZ
Surrounded by the four sacred mountains, I am privileged and proud to be here with the Diné people in Window Rock, your Nation’s capital. And I’m especially honored to join you on a day that we celebrate and recommit to protecting Mother Earth.
Thank you, President Nez and First Lady Phefelia, for once again welcoming me, now as the First Lady of the United States, to address the Navajo Nation.
I want to thank Vice President Myron-Lizer and the Second Lady, and to all of the Navajo Nation leaders with us today. You honor me with your presence.
To you who are with us in person and to all joining us by radio: Yá’át’ééh.
Recently, I saw a beautiful Navajo Wedding Basket—the white star in the middle, the red river, the black mountains. And as I looked at it, the break in the circle caught my eye. I wondered what that space meant.
When I looked it up, I learned that there are different interpretations, but it’s often seen to represent the Diné emergence into this world and the path of life. I read that this open circle represented a broader concept: That the world was created in perfect beauty and harmony—“Hozho.”
While perfection is static, life is not. As the world changes around us—and chaos disrupts—we must have a path forward, a way to rediscover and recreate the harmony we need.
Adaptability, persistence, strength—Over the years, these are the qualities I have seen most in your nation.
In 2013, I joined Navajo Technical College to give a commencement. I met students who were working two jobs—trying to keep up in school when they had no electricity at home. I heard about young people who had dropped out because of the enormous challenges they faced—only to reenroll and become honor students.
In 2019, when I joined First Lady Phefelia and President Nez in Tuba City to open a cancer treatment center, so many people were relieved that they would no longer have to travel hours to get lifesaving treatment.
That center is the very first of its kind in Indian Country. But it will not be the last.
And just last year, your First Lady joined me for a Native Talking Circle. We heard from tribal leaders about the issues Indian Country faces, and I saw the excitement people had to get out and vote.
At that gathering I promised that as President, Joe, and a Biden-Harris Administration would stand with Indian Country, and all of you. And today, as your First Lady, in our first 100 days, I am here to let you know that we are keeping that promise.
We stand with you—the Navajo Nation.
As you govern, our Administration will work in partnership with you, honoring the solemn Trust Responsibility to Tribal Nations. As President, Joe has already delivered the largest single investment ever made in Indian Country.
This pandemic has been painful. Last May, the Navajo Nation had the highest per-capita infection rate in the United States. So many elders, cultural leaders, and family members, young and old, have been taken by this virus. We feel their loss deeply every day.
Working with Indian Health Service—President Nez, the Navajo Nation Council, and this entire community adapted, committing to safety measures that brought cases down.
And, as of today, the Navajo Nation has vaccinated more than half of those living on tribal lands. With few resources, reaching people in some of the most remote areas, the Navajo Nation is a leading example of COVID response in the United States.
You’re doing the work, now the federal government must work for you.
We relaunched the White House Council on Native American Affairs to guide our work across the Administration.
President Biden passed the American Rescue Plan, investing billions to help you continue to combat COVID and stabilize safety-net programs.
And, my husband has proposed the American Jobs Plan which includes funding for badly-needed infrastructure—from running water to broadband—new roads to electricity. This plan will provide good paying jobs—including here in the Navajo Nation.
And, of course, under the leadership of Secretary Holland, the Biden-Harris Department of the Interior will be good stewards of our public lands, with a renewed commitment to our tribal trust and treaty responsibilities.
All of this, at nearly 100 days, and we’re just getting started.
Tribes will always have a voice in our Administration and we’re committed to honoring Tribal sovereignty and strengthening our Nation-to-Nation relationship.
On last year’s Earth Day, President Nez wrote, “Protecting Mother Earth starts with us.”
He’s right. It’s on all of us—together—to find the path back to “Hozho”—harmony and beauty—the world as it should be.
Despite the challenges you’ve faced, the Navajo Nation lives that truth, again and again.
You live the beauty-way prayer:
With beauty before me, I walk.
With beauty behind me, I walk.
With beauty above and about me, I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.
On this path of life, Joe and I will walk with you.
We stand with the Navajo Nation—today, tomorrow, and always.