Southwest Indian Relief Council
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A Program of NRC


Biographies
 Peterson Zah - 1937-

Born in 1937 in the disputed Navajo-Hopi joint-use area in Low Mountain, AZ, Peterson Zah has devoted his life to the service of the Navajo people. At the age of nine he was taken from his family and sent to the Phoenix Indian School. After graduation in 1960 he attended Arizona State University on a basketball scholarship. He received his bachelor's degree in education in 1963.

Peterson worked in Phoenix until 1967 when he took a job that would be the beginning of his career in politics, head of Dinebeiina Nahiilna Be Agaditahe (DNA) or "Lawyers Who Contribute to the Economic Revitalization of the People." During the ten years he served DNA he took several cases which established Indian sovereignty to the U.S. Supreme Court.

During this same time Zah served on the first all-Navajo school board at Window Rock and became the president in 1973. He hired more Navajo teachers and restored knowledge of tribal history. He pushed to have the Navajo language taught in all classes, including math and science.

Zah served as chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council at Window Rock from 1983-1987. From 1990-1994 Zah was the first elected president of the Navajo Nation under a newly reorganized government structure. In 1995 he became advisor to the president on American Indian Affairs at Arizona State University. He currently lives in Window Rock with his wife and three children.

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