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Guest Opinion. In his quiet, gentle, unassuming way, he was the life of the party for 52 years.

Cartoonist, political commentator, artist and sign maker Jack Ahasteen captured Navajo wit and wisdom every week with a wink, leaving behind smiles.

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No matter where you stand on the Navajo political spectrum, whether you’re a silent listener or Facebook bellower, Jack always says what everyone is thinking, only better and more crisply in a cartoon.

Week after week, year after year, as only a great editorial cartoonist can do, Jack captured his subject’s unique characteristic and accentuated it in a way that made it funny. Russell Begaye’s suit, Jonathan Nez’s hair, my hat and glasses. Council delegates as fat cats in cowboy hats and big bolo ties.

Jack’s first cartoon about me came out in September 2018 as Buu Lightyear. His second was on April 7, 2022, just days after my announcement to run for Navajo president. I was the first to announce for office so he drew my chei hat being tossed into the ring.

Inside the ring were the words that spelled out the Navajo social problems and issues that need attention: veterans, drug addiction, inflation, broadband, roads and federal Indian treaty policy, to name a few.

As with most of his cartoons, at the bottom were his little characters he calls Hosteen and Maii.

But last week, his long reign at the Navajo Times ended. What did Jack do to be handed his hat and shown the door? As he said in a letter to his devoted readers on his Facebook page, he asked to renegotiate his pay.

Instead, he was met with the headline “Ahasteen departs Navajo Times” and a story that begins, “The Jack Ahasteen Comics will no longer be printed in the Navajo Times.”

As I have said since I heard this news, the Navajo Times is not the Navajo Times without Jack Ahasteen.

Perhaps the paper thought he was asking too much. If the comments from his loyal fans on the Navajo Times own Facebook page is any indication, no amount is too much. I agree.

Everyone agrees. Why wouldn’t they? Jack is a highly skilled editorial cartoonist. He understands visual communication. Unlike anyone else, he takes complex issues and turns them into simple, thought-provoking, entertaining cartoons with both political and cultural acuity.

He can look at that week’s newspaper before it’s printed and compress it into one funny cartoon, week after week.

Jack has great satirical wit and a near perfect sense of humor and irony. He wields parody and exaggeration like a scalpel. His weekly product is a relevant and impactful cartoon that resonate with his Navajo readers and anyone who follows Navajo news.

Jack is a Navajo institution in the highest regard. His tenure at the Navajo Times is equaled only by the late Bill Donovan who hired him and kept asking for more.

He deserves more than a pay raise. He deserves national and international recognition. So this week I began the process to see that he is nominated for a long-deserved Pulitzer Prize in the public service category.

Jack Ahasteen has served the Navajo people and the Navajo public good with love, joy, understanding, effectiveness, cultural appreciation and fun for so very long.

That’s why I am proud to say – I stand with Jack.

Buu Nygren is the president of the Navajo Nation.

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