This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Flagstaff, Ariz. • Russell Begaye was sworn in Tuesday as president of the Navajo Nation, agreeing to support several of his predecessor's projects including an aerial tram at the east rim of the Grand Canyon and a rail port that could export agriculture and coal from the reservation.
Begaye easily beat former two-term President Joe Shirley Jr. in a special election last month for the post on the country's largest American Indian reservation. He succeeds Ben Shelly, who served an extended term while challenges surrounding the election played out in court.
Begaye and Shelly stood together on stage during the inauguration ceremony in Fort Defiance and signed a document that outlines eight projects Begaye agreed to push forward.
Among them is the Grand Canyon Escalade, a controversial project that would ferry tourists from cliff tops on the Navajo Nation to the edge of the Colorado River just before it meets the Little Colorado River; a rail port that could export crops and coal from the reservation; and the pursuit of clean-coal technology, according to the agreement obtained by The Associated Press.
In an interview earlier this year, Begaye said he had concerns about waivers of law that would be needed to move the Escalade project forward, the Navajo Nation's ownership stake and divisions the project has caused among Navajos. Legislation for the project has not been introduced in the Navajo Nation Council.
The Hopi Tribe, the National Park Service and some Navajos oppose the project that would be built outside the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park.
Begaye has said that economic development will be one of his top priorities, focusing mostly on manufacturing plants that could be set up across the reservation and that could entice other businesses.