Arizona Values, Education, Vision, and Leadership
Raised in Kayenta, AZ, a rural town on the Navajo reservation, Wenona and her three brothers saw, firsthand, the importance of deeply-rooted family values, hard work, and education in her community, state, and the nation. Motivated by her mother, an elementary school teacher on the Navajo reservation, to pursue higher education and skills that could expand opportunities for all Americans, Wenona excelled in school, and she graduated as salutatorian from Monument Valley High School. From there, she earned national recognition as the first American Indian to graduate from Arizona State University’s prestigious Barrett Honor’s College. Wenona graduated summa cum laude, with a B.A. in English Literature.
Focusing her academic coursework on assisting and empowering rural, minority, and low-income individuals, families, and communities in the areas of financial services, home ownership, small businesses, and community development, Wenona attended Harvard Law School, where she earned a juris doctorate degree, and a master degree in public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
As an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Wenona’s campaign is historic, in that if elected, she would be the first American Indian woman to ever serve in the U.S. Congress, and the first American Indian from Arizona to be elected to Congress.
Working as a health and cultural resource project specialist at the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA), a nonprofit organization comprised of 20 Arizona Indian Tribes, dedicated to promoting tribal self-reliance through public policy development, Wenona quickly took a leadership role on regional and national issues that affect Arizonans and American Indians. In her capacity as a public policy analyst and advocate, Wenona worked with tribal, state, and federal leaders on health care legislation and regulations, and assisted the writing of policy and U.S. Congressional testimonies on the needs of American Indians and rural Arizonans. She also worked to protect heritage sites on tribal and federal lands in Arizona.
Over the past several years, Wenona has worked as an attorney and public interest advocate, dedicating her educational and professional career to assisting financially-struggling families and communities. Wenona has worked for law firms and nonprofit organizations located in Arizona and Washington D.C., in the areas of expanding educational opportunities, start-up businesses, economic development and diversification, banking and predatory lending practices, and affordable housing.
Wenona is married to Sal Baldenegro, Jr., a native of Tucson, and son of Mexican-American civil-rights icon Salomón R. Baldenegro. Sal’s family comes from Winkelman, AZ, where his late grandfather, Robert “Betito” Cruz, was a lifetime copper miner and union organizer in the southern portion of Arizona CD1. He was a co-founder and former President of the Mine, Mill, and Smelter Union Local #886 in Hayden, and an officer in the United Steelworkers Local #886 in Hayden. My in-laws, Salomón Baldenegro, Cecilia Cruz, and her sister Carolina Cruz, are lifetime union and civil rights advocates who were involved in the 1983-86 Arizona copper strikes.