FARMINGTON – New Mexico State Senator and Navajo Code Talker John Pinto will be remembered for his dedication and service to the San Juan and McKinley counties and the Navajo Nation.
Pinto, 94, died in Gallup on May 24, according to a Gallup Police press release.
His family made a statement Friday afternoon saying the senator was surrounded by his family when he died.
“He has worked tirelessly his entire life to serve the Diné people. The family would like to thank his constituents and co-legislators for allowing him to serve. This made him really happy,” she said Family.
The New Mexico Senate Democratic Caucus declared that Pinto was the senior member of the Senate, starting in 1977.
“Senator for more than 40 years, he has represented his constituents with grace, wisdom, and tenacity. The relationships he has built and the respect he has earned have enabled him to make countless important investments for the communities in New Mexico, in particular for the indigenous communities, secure. ” Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement.
Lujan Grisham, President of the Navajo Nation, Jonathan Nez, and Spokesman Seth Damon were among the state, tribal and federal officials who considered Pinto’s commitment to the civil service.
“Words cannot express the sadness we feel over the loss of a great Diné warrior who served our country for many years as a Navajo Code talker and in the New Mexico State Senate. He devoted his life to helping others, and so was he changed the lives of so many people for the better, “Nez said in a statement.
Gallup police officers were dispatched to a Gallup address at 9:21 a.m. on May 24 because a man later identified as Pinto was unable to breathe, according to a statement from the police station.
Officials initiated CPR before Pinto was transported to Gallup Indian Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
The incident is being investigated by the ministry’s investigative department, the statement said.
Pinto was a Marine Corps veteran and a member of the elite group of Navajo men who used the Navajo language to develop an unbreakable code to carry military messages in the Pacific during World War II.
He was one of the code talkers who received the 2001 Congress silver medals.
Peter MacDonald Sr., president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association and past chairman of the Navajo Nation, said Pinto is one of seven remaining code talkers.
“He was a great friend and legend to New Mexico,” MacDonald said, adding the Senator was instrumental in bringing the process to the Navajo nation, including funding to expand US Highway 491 from two up four tracks.
The senator also campaigned for money to build a museum in Tsé Bonito dedicated to the code talkers and sharing information about them.
He sponsored the project, which received approximately $ 1 million in this year’s capital expenditure bill.
“We will never forget his love for his country,” said MacDonald.
Regarding the education of Navajo students, Pinto advocated investment in capital expenditures and campus development for the Navajo Preparatory School.
Pinto was born in 1924 and grew up in Lupton, Arizona and Gallup, according to the Senate Democratic caucus.
At 39, he earned a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of New Mexico.
His career included serving as President of the Gallup Indian Community Center from 1950 to 1970, serving the Gallup-McKinley County Schools for 28 years, and serving as the legislative association for the Navajo Nation Division of Transportation in Window Rock, Arizona.
Before joining the State Senate, he was President of the Bááháálí Chapter from 1950 to 1954, then Secretary-Treasurer of the Tsé Lichíí Chapter from 1954 to 1960. Both chapters are south of Gallup.
In 1972 he was elected to the McKinley County Board of Commissioners, where he served four years.
Pinto’s last public appearances included the opening ceremony of Navajo Technical University at Crownpoint on May 17, at which he was awarded his first honorary doctorate.
“I think you should call me Doctor Senator John Pinto,” he said cheerfully after graduation.
Noel Lyn Smith reports on the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at [email protected].
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