Ned Hatathli
(1923 - 1972)

Ned Hatathli was the first Navajo to become an Educator, to earn a Ph.D., and become the first President of Navajo Community College (Diné College).

Ned Hatathli was one of the first educated contemporary Navajo leaders. Born at Coalmine Mesa near Tuba City on the Arizona part of the Navajo Reservation on October 11, 1923, Ned Hatathli has a traditional Navajo childhood until adolescence, when at the urging of an Uncle, he went away to Boarding School. Eventually, he graduated as Valedictorian of Tuba City High School. On a class trip to the California coast, he was amazed by the world outside the Navajo Reservation, particularly the vastness of the Pacific Coast. Subsequently, he decided to attend Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, in the late 1930s, but he left before graduation to join the Navy and renew his interest in the ocean at the outbreak of World War II.

After the war, he returned to Flagstaff, Arizona, and attended Northern Arizona University, obtaining B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Education (one of the first Navajos to earn a Doctorate). Upon completion of his degrees, Hatathli returned to the Navajo Reservation and became a leader in the Navajos’ movement toward greater social and economic opportunity.

Hatathli helped to found the Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild, feeling strongly that art was an integral part of the Navajo way of life. He improved the quality of Navajo Silversmithing and Weaving during the early 1950s by establishing standards for quality. In 1955, he was elected to the Navajo Tribal Council and then appointed as Director of Tribal Resources (he believed that people were as important a resource as oil, uranium, coal, or natural gas that existed on the Navajo Reservation).

In the mid 1960s, the Navajo Tribal Council decided to improve educational opportunities for the tribe’s members through the creation of the Navajo Community College. Ned Hatathli was appointed the first Executive Vice President. When classes began in 1969, he became Navajo Community College’s first President. In 1971, Hatathli saw the U.S. Congress pass a bill that provided significant federal support for construction and operating costs of the college. He died suddenly of an accidental gunshot wound on October 16, 1972, at Many Farms, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. He was survived by his wife, Florence, and their four children.

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