Indianz.Com > News > Former Indian housing leader lands in jail on Navajo Nation
Indianz.Com Video: Arrest at Navajo Nation Fair
Former Indian housing leader lands in jail on Navajo Nation
Friday, July 7, 2023

A once prominent Indian housing leader is blaming the new president of the Navajo Nation for his arrest at a recent event on the reservation.

Chester Carl, a former chairman of the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC), was arrested on June 28 following an incident at the Navajo Nation Housing Fair. Video from the scene showed him being taken away by tribal police officers on the New Mexico portion of the reservation.

“I was told to leave, and told them people were asking for help with housing and there ways to help people under the NAHASDA legislation where it said self-determination in which all people there can determine how they can get housing,” Carl said in a post on social media in which he referenced the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act, a federal statute.

According to Carl, President Buu Nygren was the one who “got the police” involved. But the new Navajo leader had nothing to do with the incident, a spokesperson confirmed.

“President Nygren was nowhere near the vicinity at all when this occurred,” Donovan Quintero, the director of communications for the Navajo Nation Office of President and Vice President, told Indianz.Com two days after the incident.

Navajo Nation Housing Fair
A flyer for the Navajo Nation Housing Fair features an image of President Buu Nygren.

Nygren attended the Navajo Nation Housing Fair, which took place at the Fire Rock Casino in Church Rock. Despite the claims made on social media, he wasn’t aware of Carl’s arrest until being informed later, Quintero said.

“He didn’t even know that this happened,” Quintero said of the president, who was inaugurated in January.

Following Carl’s post in the late hours of June 28, some of of the Navajo Nation’s social media posts were filled with comments critical of Nygren, who spoke at the housing event. The negative responses, which were based on the incorrect belief of the president’s involvement with the arrest, appear to have been deleted.

“Social media is obviously getting out of hand with this,” Quintero said on Friday.

Chester Carl and Buu Nygren
Chester Carl, left, and Buu Nygren are seen in a social media post in June 2022, when both were candidates for public office on the Navajo Nation. Carl was running for a seat on the Navajo Nation Council while Nygren was running for president of the Navajo Nation. Carl was not successful, with Nygren going on to win the presidency. Photo: Chester Carl

Carl served as chairman of NAIHC, the largest inter-tribal housing organization, for two terms, during the early 2000s. Around the same time, he was also serving as chief executive officer of the Navajo Housing Authority (NHA) on his tribe’s reservation, which spans the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

During his time at NHA, Carl became the subject of a federal investigation. In October 2006, the Department of Housing and Urban Development suspended him for accepting “gratuities” from the owner of a non-Indian business that built homes on the Navajo Nation.

After his departure from NHA in 2007, Carl and the business owner were indicted on federal conspiracy, bribery, and embezzlement charges. Both were accused of misconduct in connection with the construction of housing projects on the Arizona and New Mexico portions of the reservation.

Carl was acquitted of all charges at the conclusion of a trial in federal court in Nevada. His co-defendant, William Aubrey, was convicted and sentenced to prison for taking and converting money and funds belonging to a tribal organization.

Following the trial, the NHA blamed Carl for causing “many disruptions” to its operations. The HUD suspension, for instance, was lifted only after Carl’s acquittal in 2013. [PDF: Chester Carl Debarment | PDF: William Aubrey Debarment]

In his social media post, Carl said he was jailed for several hours following his arrest. He later re-shared photos of himself with then-president Bill Clinton and then-U.S. congressman J.D. Hayworth, citing them as examples of his achievements in Indian housing.

Last year, Carl endorsed Nygren’s run for president, just as he was running for a seat on the Navajo Nation Council. Nygren went on to defeat Jonathan Nez, the incumbent president, while Carl was not successful in his campaign for public office on the reservation.

While campaigning, Carl was asked about the prior federal investigation in a post on social media. He blamed his troubles on his former co-defendant being “drunk” at a gaming establishment.