“The IPLP faculty gave me the necessary tools to research, analyze and lead with the future in mind."
President Jonathan Nez of the Navajo Nation has selected Chad Abeyta (LLM ’21) to be his running mate as he seeks a second term in office.
Hailing from Alamo, New Mexico, located on the eastern side of the Navajo Nation, Abeyta is an attorney with the Navajo Nation Office of Legislative Counsel, which acts as a resource for the Navajo Nation Legislature as they develop public policy. Prior to this, he served in the U.S. Air Force spending three tours of duty overseas.
“My family and I believe it is a high honor to be considered a Vice Presidential candidate for the Navajo Nation and to have the opportunity to potentially serve alongside President Jonathan Nez during his next term,” shared Abeyta. “Campaigning across one of the largest native nations in terms of land base with the highest number of enrolled members is exciting. I always look forward to meeting community members, new relatives and the kindest elders who always share words of strength, encouragement and support.”
Abeyta earned his bachelor’s and JD from the University of New Mexico before completing his Master of Laws (LLM) through University of Arizona Law’s Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) program. Abeyta was also a visiting student and completed his final semester of his JD at the University of Arizona. One of the leading Indigenous law programs in the world, the University of Arizona Law's IPLP program promotes and protects Indigenous peoples’ human rights and increases the representation of Indigenous lawyers and academics.
“I remember being in undergrad, President Nez, who was vice president at the time, was speaking to young Navajo people, and encouraged the younger generation to come back and serve our people after we get our degrees,” Abeyta said during the announcement of his candidacy at the Window Rock Veterans Park on August 8. “That stuck with me this whole time and it still continues to this day that I am here for you all.”
Abeyta’s wife, Paulene Abeyta also holds a JD from University of Arizona Law and is active in local and regional politics. She is an alumna of Emerge New Mexico and coordinated grassroots campaign efforts for former Congresswoman Deb Haaland. She is also the current vice president of the To’hajiilee Community School Board of Education and serves as a board of director for the National Native American Bar Association. During her time at Arizona Law Paulene Abeyta served as president of the National Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) and was very active in Arizona Law’s NALSA chapter.
“It’s been a phenomenal experience to campaign with my family by my side,” explained Abeyta. “My wife Paulene has provided so much support for me and our family during the campaign just as she did while I was in the military, undergrad, law school, and in our legal careers. Paulene and I make a great team and I appreciate her very much.”
Professor James Diamond, interim director of the IPLP Program and professor of practice noted, “Both Chad and Paulene Abeyta epitomize what Arizona Law and the IPLP Program are all about; passionate and brilliant Indigenous students who return to their community to advocate for their people and the continued development of their Native nation."
Speaking with supporters following the announcement of his new running mate, President Nez commented that the Abeytas symbolize what many young Diné professionals strive for by pursuing and earning a formal education while upholding the teachings of their elders and returning home to help and serve their people.
“Thank you, LawCats, for the recognition of my candidacy for the Navajo Nation Vice President position. I appreciate all the support and mentorship the faculty at the University of Arizona Law has provided our family during our time as law students and as alumni,” said Abeyta. “The IPLP faculty gave me the necessary tools to research, analyze and lead with the future in mind. Ahehee (Thank you) Dean Marc Miller, Professor Robert Williams, Professor Melissa Tatum, IPLP faculty, and the University of Arizona.”
The general election will be held in November 2022.