In Memoriam: Jack Chee Jackson, Sr., Former Navajo Arizona Congressman

WINDOW ROCK, AZ – Dr. Jack C. Jackson, Sr., a former Arizona State Senator and Representative, and former member of the Navajo Nation Council, passed away on March 5, 2023. Jackson was Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House Clan) and born for Áshįįhí (Salt People Clan).

“On behalf of the Navajo Nation Council, I extend my deepest condolences to the family of the Honorable Jack Jackson, Sr., a beloved leader and outstanding representative of our Navajo people, far and wide,” said Navajo Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley. “Although we are saddened by the loss of a great leader, we are comforted knowing he had a lasting impact on his family and our people. Mr. Jackson was known for his dedication and compassion to making a difference in the lives of those around him. He is dearly missed, but his legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of our Navajo people.”

Jackson’s family wrote, “[We honor our] patriarch’s legacy as a spiritual leader, Medicine Man, educator, legislator, rodeo cowboy, rancher, athlete and coach, and a fierce defender of preserving and prolonging Diné traditions, culture and language so future Navajo generations will continue to prosper and thrive. He will be greatly missed and is deeply loved.”

Jackson began his teaching career in 1957 with Window Rock High School as a social studies, health and physical education instructor. At Diné College, formerly Navajo Community College, he was Athletic Director, Director of Student Affairs and head basketball coach. Eventually, Jackson became the Director of the Office of Diné Education Philosophy.

He served as a member of the Navajo Nation Council representing the Fort Defiance Agency from 1980 to 1984. Following that, he successfully ran for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives where he served for 14 years before transitioning to the Senate where he served for over five years. In his final term as Senator, he served alongside his son, former State Rep. Jack C. Jackson, Jr. 

Sen. Jackson was instrumental in establishing the Arizona Indian Legislative Day recognized annually at the Arizona State Capitol, which affords the opportunity for the state’s 22 tribal nations to make their voices heard. He was most proud of his bill ensuring Transaction Privilege Tax funds were allotted to tribal educational institutions in addition to the counties, towns and municipalities that had received these funds for years. The passage of the bill provided significant funding for Diné College. 

While attending boarding school in Oklahoma at a young age, Jackson was exposed to his first rodeo experience. At that time, there was no organized rodeo circuit for Native Americans. When he and his brother returned to the Navajo Nation, they founded the All Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association. They also competed in calf and team roping events. 

Jackson also served as the Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Health Authority in the Office of Student Affairs and Native Healing Sciences. This led to him pursuing more study to become a medicine man. After many years, he was ordained in the Female Windway Ceremony and the Bowguard Ceremony. He was one of the founders of the Navajo Traditional Healing Services Practitioners and Medicine Men Association. He also served as President of the Native American Church of Navajoland from 1971 to 1975.

“Please accept my sincerest condolences for our great relative and leader,” said Council Delegate Cherilyn Yazzie. “Together, we mourn this tremendous loss. Mr. Jackson was a great leader, father, grandfather, uncle, and man. He was a great person to work with and a great mentor for our educational system and tribal agencies. He was honest, straightforward, and an exceptional friend. We thank the Holy People for bringing him into our lives. May he journey into the next world with peace and love.”