Peterson Zah Cause of Death: The Navajo Nation has announced the passing of Peterson Zah, the first elected president of the Navajo Nation and a lifelong advocate for Native American rights. He died on Tuesday at the Tséhootsooí Medical Center in Fort Defiance, Arizona, at the age of 85.
Peterson Zah Cause of Death: Obituary, Funeral
Zah, who was a member of the Navajo Nation, was elected as its first president in 1990, leading the largest tribal reservation in the United States. During his term, he helped shift the Navajo Nation’s government from a council to a nation with three branches of government. He was known for his work in defending the interests of Native American people and his advocacy for education in the Navajo Nation.
In a statement released by the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President and the Navajo Nation Office of the Speaker, tribal leaders expressed their condolences and gratitude for Zah’s leadership. “It’s a big loss for the Navajo Nation,” said Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren. “He was a huge tribal advocate across Indian Country and America. Thank you to his family for letting us have him lead the Navajo Nation.”
Zah was also a co-founder and executive director of DNA-People’s Legal Services, a nonprofit program for the Navajo, Hopi, and Apache people. After leaving his post as Navajo Nation president, he served as a special advisor to the president of Arizona State University on American Indian Affairs, where he worked to build partnerships with tribal groups and increase the number of Native American students at the university.
Zah’s work in advocating for Native American rights extended beyond the Navajo Nation. He led efforts to include tribes in the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and for the amendment of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1994.
Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow praised Zah’s legacy in a statement, saying, “He set the standard for ASU’s commitment to American Indian students and tribal communities, and he will be deeply missed.”
Zah’s contributions to the Navajo Nation and Native American communities across the United States will be remembered as a testament to his dedication to social justice and education.