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Navajo Nation Government

The Tribal Council
Navajo Tribal Government before the 1920s was not centrally organized. The discovery of oil on the reservation in 1921 created the need for a central Indian authority with which the federal government could interact in providing the leases needed for mineral development. Initally a business council of three Navajos appointed by the BIA dealt with lease grants. Since this select group was not representative of the Tribe, steps were taken in 1923 to choose representatives from each of the several Navajo Agencies then in existence. It was not until after World War II, however, that the Navajo Tribal Council was given recognition as a viable and stabilized body. The basis of local government for the Navajo Reservation, the Chapter, was initiated in 1922 as a means of improving agricultural conditions at a local level. Later the Chapter became the basic political subdivision of Navajo Tribal Government. The Chapters elect representatives to the Navajo Tribal Council, the legislative branch of Navajo government.

The fight over stock reduction very nearly caused Navajo self-government to collapse in the 1930s. In the aftermath of this fight, in 1937, the tribal council was disbanded and reorganized under regulations of the Department of the Interior. A constitution based on the type authorized by the Indian Reorganization Act was also voted in, except that the approval of the secretary of the interior would be required on each council resolution. This constitution was not approved in Washington, however, and the powers of the Navajo tribe were temporarily limited.

From: The Navajo Atlas: Environments, Resources, People, and History of the Din4 Bikeyah, by James M. Goodman. University of Oklahoma Press, 1982.


The Navajo Nation
After World War II the Council took up residence in Window Rock. With the ongoing fight over the horrors of stock reduction as well as the need for roads, schools, health facilities, and water development, the Department of the Interior gave more and more power to the Tribal Council, including the right to adopt a constitution "that could not be arbitrarily cancelled or modified by the Secretary of the Interior." A constitution was not adopted, however.

In 1967 a Navajo Bill of Rights was passed and in 1969, a year after celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of 1868, the Navajo Nation was declared as a sovereign state. The power of this sovereign state became increasingly obvious during the 1970s when county and state governments began to be affected by Navajo voters, and in 1992 a sovereignty accord was signed between the Navajo Nation and the governors of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The sovereignty accord emphasized the importance of "a government-to-government relationship."

Since the late 1980's much has occurred within the Navajo Nation government. New administration, several proposals for reapportionment, Council reduction, Local Governance, and gaming issues have all come up. In addition, problems within the government have led to several reorganizations and an extremely confusing period of changing leadership.

Our Din4 ancestors survived contacts with outsiders, failed treaties, war raids, the Long Walk, an imposed government structure, forced education, and stock reduction in addition to change overs of elected leaders. At times it has been difficult for us as we sometimes blame each other, our government and politics for our mistakes. We have forgotten that in order to make good decisions and judgement, we must reflect back on our philosophical lessons and history through songs, stories and prayers. Often we hear our people ask "Where are our leaders?" Our songs, prayers, and ceremonies, given to us by the Diyin Dine'4 have existed from time immemorial and remain unchanged, but we have. We create our own situations, choose dark paths, then question why, what, how and when. All along, the answers are obvious.

It is the hope that now and in the future the children will learn and practice from our teachings, including the importance of using our history, songs, prayers, ceremonies and the Din4 way. In conclusion, our wisdom and knowledge are alive, like in the excerpt from the Chief Hogan Song...

"I send my thoughts to the east, when I pray to you, the Diyin Dine'4, they will come true, when you listen, they will happen, according to my prayers, thoughts, it will happen ... S3'ah' Naagha7 Na' hale', Bik'eh H0zh00n Na' hale'

(send prayer in the four directions)

H0zh= N1h1sdl99 ...
H0zh= N1h1sdl99 ...
H0zh= N1h1sdl99 ...
H0zh= N1h1sdl99 ...


Based on: Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 10, essays by Mary Shepardson & Peter Iverson; Alfonso Ortiz & William C. Sturtevant, eds. Smithsonian Institution, 1983.

Bottom from: Navajo Nation Government, Fourth Edition, Office of Navajo Government Development, Window Rock, Navajo Nation.

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