MOAB, Utah — President Buu Nygren delivered a passionate speech on leadership and fatherhood yesterday at the Indigenous Men’s Conference held in Moab, Utah. The conference focused on empowering Indigenous men.
In his keynote address, President Nygren spoke candidly about the challenges he faced growing up and how he overcame adversity to become a leader. He urged the men at the conference to set a positive example for their children and communities.
“Leadership starts at home,” President Nygren said. “As fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and brothers, we have a responsibility to show our children the way.”
President Nygren, the youngest to serve as the Navajo Nation President, has made empowering Indigenous communities one of the cornerstones of his administration. He has focused on improving education, health care, and economic opportunities for the Navajo Nation.
President Nygren, the first son of a single mother to rise to the nation’s highest office, credits his mother for instilling in him the values and work ethic that shaped his life.
Born in Blanding, Utah, and raised in Yellow Rock Point, Utah, Nygren was raised by his mother. Money was tight, and his mother worked long hours at multiple jobs to make ends meet. The President said she made sure he knew how important education was as a path forward.
Nygren said his mother taught him the importance of hard work, perseverance, and helping others.
“Watching her work so hard to provide for me taught me the dignity of labor,” Nygren said. “She showed me that with determination and sacrifice, you can overcome any obstacle.”
The President said he often pondered on what his life might be like if his father or his grandfather were in his life. He did praise his uncles for teaching him a few valuable lessons that he lives by today.
“I had an uncle that said, ‘Come follow me and I’ll teach you how to build homes. And don’t complain and work as hard as you can.’ Those are some of the things I think about as a father and as a man.”
The President said ultimately, it was his mother who pushed him to study, get good grades, and take advantage of every opportunity.
Though he struggled in school, he earned scholarships that allowed him to attend college. He remembered her love and belief in him helped develop his self-confidence and ambition.
“My mother is my hero,” Nygren said. “She singlehandedly gave me the foundation of love, support, and guidance to make my dreams a reality. I would not be where I am today without her.”
Nygren credits his mother for shaping his values as president, including his commitment to helping working families and underserved communities. He says being raised by a hardworking single mother drives his desire to expand opportunities for the Navajo people.
The President’s speech touched on themes of healing, hope, and forging a new path forward. He drew parallels between his journey and the resilience of Native peoples who have survived centuries of hardship but continue to preserve their cultures and traditions.
“I’d love to see more of our young, Native American men be successful. I think that’d be great,” he said.
Founder of the Indigenous Men’s Conference Pete Sands said while we respect and honor Indigenous women, we must not forget the Indigenous men.
“It’s important to remember that the male aspect, things still need to be balanced with the female aspect,” said Sands.
Sands added indigenous men have a challenging time with being confident and vulnerable.
“Confidence in who you are, and learning how to have a healthy expression and not just lash out, and voice instead of shouting in anger,” he said. “And learn how to communicate and how you to express what’s bothering you; not be afraid to be vulnerable — it’s okay to cry.”
Sands praised President Nygren for sharing his personal story and wisdom to inspire the next generation of Indigenous leaders and fathers.
Gary Mike, father of Ashlynne Mike, also spoke at the conference. His daughter was brutally murdered in May 2016. Since, Mike and Ashlynne’s mother Pamela Foster, have become staunch advocates and have been fighting for better protection of Indigenous children.
Gary has been spreading the message that all children need is to be loved by their families. Mike briefly met with President Nygren and spoke about protecting Navajo children on the Navajo Nation.
President Nygren and First Lady Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren recently revealed they are expecting their second child.