Our Experts and Staff
Dr. Manely Begay
Manley A. Begay, Jr. is a tenured Professor in the Department of Applied Indigenous Studies (AIS) and Department of Politics and International Affairs at the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff (NAU). Professor Begay is also an affiliate faculty member of the W. A. Franke College of Business at NAU. He is also, director of the Tribal Leadership Initiative in the Office of Native American Initiative at NAU. Professor Begay joined the NAU faculty in summer of 2014. At NAU, he has primary responsibility for teaching about Indigenous Nation-Building, Navajo History and Philosophy, and directing the Tribal Leadership Initiative. Beginning in 1997, he has also been co-director (with Professors Joseph Kalt and Stephen Cornell) of the award-winning Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Since 1987, the Harvard Project has worked for and with Indigenous governments, enterprises, organizations, and communities world-wide providing research, advisory services and executive education on issues of nation-building and economic development. Starting in 2000, he was both associate social scientist and senior lecturer in the American Indian Studies Program (AISP) at The University of Arizona (UofA). Professor Begay also served as affiliate faculty member of the Institute for Environment and Society at The University of Arizona. In the AISP, he was primarily responsible for teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in Indigenous Nation-Building, Dine’ History and Philosophy, Curriculum Development, and Indigenous Education. He also sat on doctoral committees. for graduate students from across the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Further, at the UofA, Professor Begay served as the founding director (2000-2009) of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy (NNI) of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy; NNI founding faculty chair (2009-2011); and NNI faculty associate (2011-2012). As director at the NNI, he had the overall responsibility of administration, research, fund-raising, and management of the organization. While at Harvard University, Professor Begay has been an instructor (1994-1998) and lecturer (1998-2000) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Administration, Planning, and Social Policy and Learning and Teaching areas. He was also a member of the Faculty Advisory Council of the Harvard University Native American Program (1995-2000), an interfaculty initiative of Harvard University promoting research, teaching, and outreach on Native American affairs. In 2011, he returned to Harvard University to serve as distinguished senior scholar at the Harvard University Native American Program. While at the Northern Arizona University, Professor Begay serves as a member of the: 1) Board of Directors, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Washington, D.C.; 2) Buddy Whitethorne Foundation Advisory Board; 3) Vice-Chairman, Tunica-Biloxi Ethics Commission; 4) Chairman, Board of Directors of the Naat’áanii Development Corporation of the Navajo Nation, Window Rock, AZ; 5) Vice-Chairman, Navajo Nation Judicial Conduct Commission, Navajo Nation Judicial Branch, Window Rock, AZ; 6) Indigenous Advisory Council, Mayor of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; 7) and 8) Chairman, Internal Advisory Committee, Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff/Tucson, AZ. He most recently served on the: 1) Board of Trustees, Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, CA;) 2) Board of Directors, Restoring Harmony, Inc., Window Rock, AZ; 3) Policy Adviser, Diné Hataałii Association (formerly Navajo Medicine Men Association); 4) Navajo Nation Council of Economic Advisers, Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice-President, Window Rock, AZ; 5) Navajo Nation Lower Colorado River Water Negotiation Team, Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice-President, Window Rock, AZ; 6) Board of Trustees, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; 7) Arizona Humanities Council, Tucson, AZ; 8) Native American Initiative Advisory Team, Office of the Vice-President of Native Affairs, University of Arizona; 9) Grant Committee, Native American Research and Training Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; 10) Board of Directors, Policy Consensus Initiative, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon; and 11) Native Network, U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, Tucson, AZ. Professor Begay is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the primary planners and designers of the now-accepted theory of how Indigenous nations and communities build nations that work – Indigenous Nation-Building. During his academic and consulting career, Professor Begay has extensively researched, published, and lectured widely on the development of Indigenous communities and their resources. He has served as a member of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, Canada’s high-level, federal review of its policies with regard to its Indigenous communities and economic development; International Advisory Committee for the Indigenous Community Governance Research Project for Reconciliation Australia, Australia’s top international research effort for the advancement of Indigenous people; Aboriginal Program Advisory Committee (Co-Chair) of the Aboriginal Leadership and Self-Government Program at The Banff Centre for Management in Banff, Alberta, Canada; and has lectured in-person at Warsaw University in Warsaw, Poland; with the U.S. Embassy Speaker’s Program in Mexico; Australian Ambassador’s Lecture Series in Washington, D.C.; 2nd Narrm Oration of the Murrup Barak Melbourne Institute for Indigenous Development at the University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, and University of Jordan at Amman, Jordan via digital video conference. Furthermore, his research and consulting experience has focused on projects about and for Native nations in the promotion of strong and effective institutions of governance and leadership. Professor Begay has also worked as a consultant for federal, state, and local agencies and Indigenous governments and organizations, curriculum development specialist and researcher for Indigenous colleges and universities, and reviewer for several major publishing and film companies. He has testified in writing and/or orally as an expert on numerous occasions regarding Indigenous community economic development, Indigenous resources, Indigenous nation-building, and related matters before the United States Senate; in Inter-American Court of Human Rights; before United States administrative bodies and state courts; before the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa; and before the Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. This work has included expert testimony regarding the challenges and triumphs of Indigenous development, Indigenous resources, Indian Child Welfare Act, and nation-building of Indigenous communities. He also headed the groundbreaking research work on governance reform for the First Nations University of Canada in Saskatchewan, Canada. Currently, Professor Begay serves as co-investigator for the: 1) National Institutes of Health research project, Understanding Resilience and Mental Wellbeing: Southwest Indigenous Nations and the Impact of COVID-19, which is a research project to demonstrate the resilience of Native Nations in Arizona and to identify local and cultural strengths and strategies in addressing mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a total budget of $243,396, Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative, Northern Arizona University. He most recently served as co-investigator for the: 1) National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences research project, “Tó’Łítso, The Water is Yellow: Investigating Short-Term Exposure and Risk Perception of Navajo Communities to the Gold King Mine Toxic Spill,” which is a partnership between Navajo Nation Community Health Representatives Program, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University with a total budget of $434,028, and the University of Arizona Foundation Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice Challenge Grant; and 2) “K’é bee da’ahííníítą: Strength through the Diné (Navajo) clan system to respond to the Gold King Mine Spill,” which is a research project partnership between University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, Fort Lewis College, Dine’ College, Navajo Nation Community Health Representatives Program, Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment (Diné C.A.R.E.):Tó Bee Nihi Dziil, with a total budget of $600,000. Furthermore, he is the lead advisor in assisting: 1) the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in its work with the Tribes of Owens Valley, and 2) other projects related to Indigenous business planning, government reform, and economic development. He most recently assisted: 1) the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe of Needles, CA in establishing a stand-alone pre-Kindergarten to 6th Grade Mojave language immersion and culture and academic-focused elementary school; 2) the Idaho State University in launching the Tribal Learning Center – a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) focused academic program; and 3) the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council of Saskatchewan in their government reform effort. As well, Professor Begay has presented on a variety of topics from leadership to Indigenous nation-building and from curriculum development to pedagogy and from historical and contemporary Native American issues to Indigenous philosophy to education at numerous colleges and universities, private and public high schools, national and international conferences, institutes, and symposia. He has worked closely with Indigenous nations in the United States, First Nations and Bands in Canada, Aborigines in Australia, Native peoples in Mexico, and Maoris in Aotearoa (New Zealand). He has also served as a member of, among others, the: 1) Fulbright Program as Senior Specialist to Curtin University of Technology, Centre for Aboriginal Studies and Southwest Aboriginal Land and Sea Council in Perth, Western Australia, Australia; 2) Board of Directors, Four Times Foundation, Red Lodge, Montana; 3) Permanent Trust Fund Work Group on the Establishment of a Plan for the Expenditure of the Permanent Fund of the Navajo Nation; 4) Native American Sports Council Curriculum Development Committee, Sports Warrior Challenge Program in Colorado Springs, Colorado; 5) White House Corps to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa; 6) National Advisory Board for the Alfonso Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies in the Department of Anthropology and the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; 7) Board of Directors of The Medical Foundation of Boston, Massachusetts; 8) Board of Trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.; 9) Faculty Advisory Board of the Harvard Native American Program at Harvard University; and 10) Board of Directors of Tuba City Wellness Center at the Navajo Nation. Prior to working with the Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, Harvard University, and Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, he was a principal and assistant principal on the Navajo Nation and high school teacher on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. In 2021 Dr. Begay received the Cal Seciwa Outstanding Faculty Award, Commission for Native Americans, Northern Arizona University, and in 2015 he was a recipient of the Arizona American Indian Excellence in Leadership Award and named Man of the Year by the Phoenix Indian Center of Phoenix, Arizona. Lastly, Professor Begay is considered as the first Navajo to graduate from Harvard University with a doctorate.
Hon. Suzan Harjo
Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee) is arguably the most consistent and effective advocate for Native American rights over the last five decades. As executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (1980s) and president of The Morning Star Institute (1984-), she has helped develop critical legislation, including the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the National Museum of the American Indian Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. A founding trustee of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, curator, poet, and columnist, Harjo has been at the center of almost every legislative, legal, and cultural issue of import to Native Peoples, including protection of cultural rights and sacred places and the return of over one million acres of Indigenous lands. Recipient of a 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, she is Editor and Guest Curator of the book (2014, Smithsonian Books) and award-winning exhibition (2014-2021, NMAI Museum on the Mall) of the same title, “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.”
Sup. Dawnafe Whitesinger
Supervisor Dawnafe Whitesinger represents District V on the Navajo County Board of Supervisors. She is the first White Mountain Apache to serve on the Board of Supervisors and the first woman to serve as Chair. As a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, she grew up on the Fort Apache Reservation and currently lives in the Pinetop-Lakeside area. Supervisor Whitesinger has a strong love of her community and has spent the majority of her life working in the field of education to better the lives of children and their families. Supervisor Whitesinger holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Arizona State University, and a Master of Arts in Curriculum Development from the University of Michigan. Following the completion of her Master’s degree, Supervisor Whitesinger started as the Curriculum Specialist for the Dishchii’bikoh (Cibecue) Community School, and now serves as the Director of Instruction Programs for that organization. She has been dedicated to the service of her community and the students of Cibecue for 14 years. She has been a strong advocate for students and community growth. Through her years of experience in public service, Supervisor Whitesinger has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about the community and how her leadership can better serve not only students, but the community as a whole. She currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the White Mountain Apache First Things First Regional Council, Chair of the White Mountain Regional Transportation Committee, Board of Directors member of Conservation Legacy (national organization dedicated to supporting locally based conservation service programs); and National Association of Counties Human Services and Education Committee member. Supervisor Whitesinger is married to Shane Baca and they have two wonderful boys, Dylan and Sirus.