Strength in Serving Tribal People with Disabilities: Mrs. Ela Yazzie-King

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Picture of Ms. Yazzie-King, smiling

Since our inception, the National Council on Disability (NCD) has recognized the importance of respecting different cultural experiences and sensitivities. In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, NCD honors former Council Member, Ela Yazzie-King of the Navajo (Diné) Nation. Her professional education and workforce preparation include two degrees: a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Sociology and a Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling.

During her career and advocacy work, Ela Yazzie-King has designed, led, encouraged others, and participated in numerous disability-related rehabilitation programs and venues.   She was appointed by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the first Native American to serve as an NCD council member in the history of the agency.

As a NCD member, Ela Yazzie-King championed several policy areas, including supporting the unmet needs of a broad array of youth and young people with disabilities from various cultures. In 2002 when NCD formed a Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), she volunteered to serve as the Council Member liaison to that group and continued that role until her 2nd term as a Council Member concluded.

NCD’s former Designated Federal Official for the YAC credits Mrs. Ela Yazzie-King with providing essential support and encouragement to young adults with disabilities during their formative years. Many of these emerging leaders continue to develop and their work in vital positions around the nation.  

Since concluding her tenure with NCD in 2002, Mrs. Yazzie-King has worked tirelessly with and for tribal as well as other indigenous people with disabilities at the local, state, tribal, national and international level. She lives in St. Michaels, AZ in the relative vicinity of Window Rock (Tségháhoodzání), and enjoys spending time with grandchildren, Aiden, Syndal, Jaxson, and Urijah, in addition to mentoring other generations. She continues to provide rehabilitation and support services for people with disabilities as they prepare to enter the workforce.

In a 2014 article about her work with the Eve Crowell Fund in Gallup, NM, Mrs. Ela Yazzie-King wrote: "Through our ThinkFirst Navajo program, we teach Navajo children to do just that: think before they act." Her main objective has been, and continues to be, to educate and encourage self-empowerment of Native Americans with disabilities. We thank her for her commitment and service.