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Former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly dies at age 75

A family spokesman says former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has died after a long illness at age 75.
Credit: AP
FILE - Ben Shelly sits among a crowd awaiting results of the Miss Navajo Nation pageant in Window Rock, Ariz., on Sept. 11, 2010. Shelly, the former Navajo Nation President, died Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in New Mexico after a long illness, family spokesman Deswood Tome said.(AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

GALLUP, N.M. — Former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly died Wednesday after a long illness, according to a family spokesman.

Shelly died in New Mexico with his family at his side, said Deswood Tome. He was 75.

Shelly took over as president on the vast reservation in January 2011 after serving one term as the tribe's vice president. The 27,000 square-mile (69,000 square-kilometer) reservation extends into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Shelly lost his re-election bid in 2014, but the Navajo Supreme Court extended his time in office by five months after the tribal election was delayed by a question over Navajo language fluency requirements for the job involving another candidate.

Prior to that, Shelly served on the Navajo Nation Council for 16 years representing his hometown of Thoreau and served eight years as a McKinley County commissioner.

Shelly and his family ran a transportation business for the last seven years.

He is survived by Martha Shelly, his wife of 57 years, plus five children, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Shelly’s family will be holding a private service for him with a public memorial planned at a future date.

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