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Sen. Peshlakai resigns, headed for Dept. of Interior role

By: - December 23, 2021 3:44 pm
Jamescita Peshlakai

Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Window Rock, speaks on the Senate floor on May 8, 2020. Screenshot via azleg.gov/Granicus

Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai resigned on Wednesday from the state Senate to work with the Department of Interior, the Democratic legislator from Cameron said.

Peshlakai chaired the Indigenous Peoples Caucus in the legislature. She pushed for legislation for the state to recognize Indigenous People’s Day and advocated for water, education, and infrastructure issues.

“As an indigenous woman, veteran, and descendant of Diné’, Hopi and Chiricahua Apache First Nations people, I am proud of the time I have spent in the legislature representing ALL constituents of Legislative District 7 and speaking as their voice on state issues,” Peshlakai wrote on a Facebook post about her resignation.

Peshlakai said she’s proud to have advocated for the rights of Indigenous peoples, worked to pass a Navajo Code Talkers Day law this year, and championed tribal representation.

Peshlakai was first elected in 2012 to represent the northern Arizona district that includes the Navajo Nation, where she lives, and eight other indigenous tribes.

Next year, Peshlakai said she’ll begin working on projects related to “all of the western United States” with the Department of Interior led by Secretary Deb Haaland, who is the first Native American person to serve as a cabinet secretary.

She’s the third state senator to resign in recent months.

In September, Sen. Kirsten Engel of Tucson resigned to focus on her Congressional run for a seat currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. In August, former Sen. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, quit after Phoenix police arrested him for child sex crimes. A trial for that criminal case is scheduled for Jan. 13.

Ten House members have vacated their offices in the past few months as well, including two who were appointed to fill Senate vacancies.

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Laura Gómez Rodriguez previously covered state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror.