Navajo Nation president denies alleged sexual misconduct

Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren addressed sexual harassment
allegations made by Navajo Nation Vice President Richelle Montoya on
Tuesday, May 28. In a live-streamed press conference, Nygren disputed Montoya’s allegation that he sexually harassed her during a staff meeting in August 2023.

was no assault, and there was no sexual content or advances of any
nature. I am deeply disappointed and offended that this interaction has
been taken out of context. It was only out of concern for her
wellbeing,” he said.

Nygren detailed their meeting in which he said he inquired about
Montoya’s marriage ending and gave her a side hug. He said it was in
effort to show support between the president and vice president, and the
hug was never meant to make her uncomfortable.

“She claims I told her she could not leave; this did not happen,” Nygren added.

Montoya said on social media
in April that she was “not physically hurt. But I was made to feel that
I had no power to leave the room. I was made to feel that what I was
trying to accomplish didn’t mean anything, that I was less than.”

In a written statement to the Office of the President, Montoya said
she tried to leave Nygren’s office four times but was told, “No, just
sit there.” She said Nygren ended the conversation by telling her if she
started dating or entered a relationship that she should tell him.

Montoya submitted a complaint and said Nygren’s staff members
suggested training for all staff but the person she alleged of
misconduct would not be identified. Montoya addressed the rumors of
mistreatment that council delegates brought up during the 2024 Special
Spring Council Session. She didn’t address her allegations publicly
until her social media post on April 16.

“As the Speaker of the Council and also as a mother, I strongly
condemn harassment and abuse in any form whether it’s sexual, physical,
verbal, mental or emotional. As leaders of our Nation, we have a great
responsibility to respectfully listen to the voices of those who are
victimized and to promptly address acts of harassment, particularly in
the workplace,” Crystalyne Curley, Navajo Nation Council speaker, said
after the 2024 Special Spring Council Session and Montoya’s public

The Navajo Times reported
in 2023 that former appointees said several female employees within the
Office of the President and Vice President experienced sexual assault
or sexual harassment. Nygren denied the allegations in December 2023.

said in his statement that he is only aware of two complaints of his
office, one being Montoya’s, the other being a sexual harassment
complaint between two other employees. He said one employee was
immediately terminated and the case was turned over to law enforcement.

Nygren ended his statement Tuesday by calling for increased
protections for Navajo Nation employees, including enacting a workplace
safety policy for the Office of President and Vice President,
strengthening workplace safety laws, forming a commission on workplace
safety, and calling for the Navajo Nation Council to revise personnel
policies manuals, including those for the legislative and judicial

Nygren said he will direct the commission to travel
around the Navajo Nation, and he will be in attendance. The commission
will make a final report to recommend changes to the laws and policies.