World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Navajo Nation


Navajo Nation

Navajo Nation
Naabeehó Bináhásdzo
Diné Bikéyah
Navajo Nation Flag
Official seal of Navajo Nation
Anthem: none
("Dah Naatʼaʼí Sǫʼ bił Sinil"
used for some occasions)
Location of Navajo Nation
Established June 1, 1868 (Treaty)
Expansions 1878–2011
Chapter system 1922
Tribal Council 1923
Capital Window Rock
 • Body Navajo Nation Council
 • President Russell Begaye
 • Vice President Jonathan Nez
 • Speaker of the Navajo Council Lorenzo Bates
 • Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation Allen Sloan
 • Total 71,000 km2 (27,413 sq mi)
Population (2011)Enrolled tribal members
 • Total 300,048
 • Density 4.2/km2 (11/sq mi)
Time zone MST/MDT

The Navajo Nation (Navajo: Naabeehó Bináhásdzo) is a semi-autonomous Native American-governed territory covering 27,425 square miles (71,000 km2), occupying portions of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico in the United States. It is the largest land area retained by a U.S. tribe and is managed via agreements with the United States Congress as a sovereign Native-American nation.

The Navajo Nation is one of the largest tribal governments of the North American Indian tribes. Its institutions include a judicial system, a legislative house, an executive office, a large law enforcement and social services apparatus, Health Services, Diné College, and other local educational trusts.


  • Etymology 1
  • Territorial expansion 2
  • Government 3
    • History 3.1
      • Rejection of Indian Reorganization Act 3.1.1
      • Constitution 3.1.2
    • 2014 Navajo Code crises 3.2
      • Primary election 3.2.1
      • October 23 3.2.2
      • 2015 3.2.3
  • Jurisdiction 4
    • United States v. Kagama 4.1
    • Executive 4.2
      • Presidents and Vice-Presidents 4.2.1
    • Legislative 4.3
      • Notable Navajo politicians 4.3.1
      • Local and regional government 4.3.2
    • Administrative divisions 4.4
    • Navajo political parties 4.5
    • Judiciary 4.6
      • Law enforcement 4.6.1
    • International cooperation 4.7
  • Geography 5
    • Climate 5.1
    • Daylight Saving Time 5.2
  • Demographics 6
    • Tribal membership 6.1
      • Movement to lower blood quantum 6.1.1
  • Education 7
    • Secondary education 7.1
    • Diné College - Tsaile Campus 7.2
      • Center for Diné Studies 7.2.1
    • Navajo Technical University (NTU) 7.3
  • Health concerns 8
    • Uranium mining and large-scale effects on the Navajo People 8.1
    • Diabetes 8.2
    • Severe combined immunodeficiency 8.3
  • Economy 9
    • Navajo Tribal Parks 9.1
    • Mineral extraction 9.2
      • Rail 9.2.1
      • Utah Dineh Corporation Inc 9.2.2
    • Navajo arts and craft enterprise 9.3
    • Renewables 9.4
      • Diné Development Corp. 9.4.1
  • Media 10
    • Navajo Times 10.1
    • KTNN 10.2
    • Other newspapers 10.3
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


Navajo Chief Manuelito

In English, the official name for the area was "Navajo Indian Reservation", as outlined in Article II of the 1868 Navajo Treaty. On April 15, 1969, the official name used by the government and displayed on the seal was changed to "Navajo Nation".[1] In 1980, rules of uniform general operation of the Chapters were outlined, and two years later, Chairman Peter MacDonald began the newest push for reformation for the Tribe's government. In 1994, a proposal to change the official designation from "Navajo" to "Diné" was rejected by the Council. It was remarked that the name Diné represented the time of suffering before the Long Walk, and that Navajo is the appropriate designation for the future.[2]

A Navajo man on horseback in Monument Valley

In Navajo, the geographic entity with its legally defined borders is known as "Naabeehó Bináhásdzo". This contrasts with "Diné Bikéyah" and "Naabeehó Bikéyah" for the general idea of "Navajoland".[3] More importantly, neither of these designations should be confused with "Dinétah", the term used for the traditional homeland of the Navajo, situated in the area between the four sacred Navajo Mountains of Dookʼoʼoosłííd (San Francisco Peaks), Dibé Ntsaa (Hesperus Mountain), Sisnaajiní (Blanca Peak), and Tsoodził (Mount Taylor).

Territorial expansion

Border changes and expansions of the Navajo Reservation from 1868 to 1934

After the Long Walk and the Navajos' return from their imprisonment in Bosque Redondo, the "Navajo Indian Reservation" was established according to the Treaty of 1868 with the United States. The borders were defined as the 37th parallel in the north; the southern border as a line running through Fort Defiance; the eastern border as a line running through Fort Lyon; and in the west as longitude 109°30′.[4]

As drafted in 1868, the boundaries were defined as

the following district of country, to wit: bounded on the north by the 37th degree of north latitude, south by an east and west line passing through the site of old Fort Defiance, in Canon Bonito, east by the parallel of longitude which, if prolonged south, would pass through old Fort Lyon, or the Ojo-de-oso, Bear Spring, and west by a parallel of longitude about 109' 30" west of Greenwich, provided it embraces the outlet of the Canon-de-Chilly, which canyon is to be all included in this reservation, shall be, and the same hereby, set apart for the use and occupation of the Navajo tribe of Indians, and for such other friendly tribes or individual Indians as from time to time they may be willing, with the consent of the United States, to admit among them; and the United States agrees that no persons except those herein so authorized to do, and except such officers, soldiers agents, and employees of the Government, or of the Indians, as may be authorized to enter upon Indian reservations in discharge of duties imposed by law, or the orders of the President, shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon, or reside in, the territory described in this article.[5]

Though the treaty had provided for one hundred miles square in the New Mexico Territory, the size of the territory was only 3,328,302 acres (5,200.472 sq mi; 1,346,916 ha)[4]—slightly more than half. This initial piece of land is represented in the design of the Navajo Nation's flag by a dark-brown rectangle.[6]

As no physical boundaries or signposts were set in place, many Navajo ignored these formal boundaries and returned to where they had been living prior to captivity.[4] A significant population of Navajo still resided along the Little Colorado and Colorado rivers as well as on Naatsisʼáán (Navajo Mountain). They had never lived in the concentration camps at Hwéeldi (Ft. Sumner).

The first expansion of the territory occurred on October 28, 1878, when President Rutherford Hayes signed an executive order pushing the boundary 20 miles to the west.[4] Further additions followed throughout the late 19th and early 20th century (see map). Most of these additions originated in executive orders, some of which were confirmed by acts of Congress; for example, the executive order by President Theodore Roosevelt which added the region around Aneth in 1905 was confirmed by Congress in 1933.[7]

Shiprock, Navajo Volcanic Field

The eastern border was shaped primarily as a result of allotments under the Dawes Act of 1887. In an attempt to assimilate Native Americans to the majority culture, the federal government proposed to divide communal lands into plots assignable to heads of household - tribal members, for their subsistence farming, in the pattern of small family farms among European Americans. Land left over after all members had received allotments was to be considered surplus and available for sale to non-Native Americans. At the same time, the tribal government was to be disbanded. The program continued until 1934, and remains controversial as it is seen as largely a failure. While the Navajo reservation proper was excluded from the act's provisions, the Eastern border became a patchwork of reservation and non-reservation land, known as a "checkerboard" area.[8]



The Navajo people's tradition of governance is rooted in their clan and oral history, from before the Spanish occupation of Dinetah, through to the July 25, 1868 Congressional ratification of the Navajo Treaty with President Andrew Johnson, and signed by Barboncito, Armijo, and other chiefs and headmen present.[9] The clan system of the Dine' is integral to Dine' society as the rules of behavior found within the system extend to the manner of refined culture that the Navajo people call "to walk in Beauty".[10]

In modern times, the Navajo people have had to transform their conceptual understandings of government to include the demands placed upon the tribe when it joined the United States at the Treaty of 1868. Though social political historians continue to debate the true nature of the modern Navajo body of politic, the Navajo people have had to evolve to include the systems and economies of the "western world", as James C. Singer argues in 2007's Government Reform Project.[11]

Rejection of Indian Reorganization Act

In 1933 the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) attempted to mitigate environmental damage due to over-grazing. This created an environment of misunderstanding. The Navajo voters, in turn, could not trust the language of the proposed initial constitution outlined in the

  • Official Navajo Nation Website
    • President of the Navajo Nation
    • Vice President of the Navajo Nation

External links

  1. ^ Wilkins, David Eugene. The Navajo Political Experience. Diné College Pres. Tsaile/Tséhílį́: 1999. page 3.
  2. ^ "Navajo oppose name change", Indian Country Today, 12 January 1994
  3. ^ Young, Robert W & William Morgan, Sr. The Navajo Language. A Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque, NM: 1987.
  4. ^ a b c d Iverson, Peter & Monty Roessel. Diné: A History of the Navajos. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque, NM: 2002. page 68ff.
  5. ^
  6. ^ History. Government of the Navajo Nation. Accessed 2010-11-05. Archived August 10, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Hubbell Trading Post. Site History., National Park Service, Accessed 2010-11-05.
  8. ^ Wilkins, David Eugene. The Navajo political experience. Diné College Press. Tsaile/Tséhílį́: 1999. page 58.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Lee, Tanya. "Navajo group begins process of crafting a constitution", Indian Country Today. 19 June 2006 (retrieved 5 Oct 2009) Archived April 12, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Arizona Capitol Times: Navajo Nation Council passes emergency language requirement repeal. October 23, 2014. Accessed February 15, 2015.
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ , 118 U.S. 375 (1886), Filed May 10, 1886"U.S. v Kagama". FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business. Retrieved 2012-04-29. 
  31. ^ - 118 U.S. 375 (1886)"United States v. Kagama". Justia. Retrieved 2012-04-29. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ 2 Navajo Nation Code §§ 1001, 1002, 1003, 1005 (1995)
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Majority of Diné vote for 24-member council, line-item veto for president", The Navajo Times Online
  36. ^ David E. Wilkins, The Navojo Political Experience, 1999, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., pp. 81-82.
  37. ^ David E. Wilkins, The Navajo Political Experience, 1999, Chapter 9.
  38. ^ Yazzie, Robert (11 February 2003) "History of the Courts of the Navajo Nation" Navajo Nation Museum, Library & Visitor Center, archived 3 November 2010 at FreezePage
  39. ^ a b Austin, Raymond Darrel (2009), "The Navajo Nation court system", pp. 1&ndash36, page 21 In Austin, Raymond Darrel (2009) Navajo Courts and Navajo Common Law: A Tradition of Tribal Self-Governance University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, ISBN 978-0-8166-6535-8
  40. ^ "Former justice, legal historian lists problems with electing judges" Navajo Times 29 October 2010, last accessed 3 November 2010
  41. ^ French, Laurence (2002) Native American Justice Burnham, Chicago, page 151, ISBN 0-8304-1575-0
  42. ^ Navajo Tribal Council Resolution No. CO-69-58 (16 October 1958)
  43. ^ Navajo Tribal Council Resolution No. CMY-39-78 (4 May 1978)
  44. ^ Advisory Committee of the Navajo Tribal Council (9 November 1983) "Recommending the Rescission and Repeal of Resolution CMY-39-78, Which Established the Supreme Judicial Council, and Revocation of Any Inconsistent Authority" available as an attachment to Navajo Tribal Council Resolution CD-94-85
  45. ^ a b Navajo Tribal Council Resolution No. CD-94-85 (4 December 1985)
  46. ^ "Judicial Districts of the Navajo Nation" Navajo Courts webpage, 29 May 2010, last accessed 3 November 2010
  47. ^ "Courts of the Navajo Nation in the Navajo Nation Government: A Public Guide to the Courts of the Navajo Nation" revised January 2010, archived 3 November 2010 at FreezePage
  48. ^
  49. ^ Arizona Time Zone
  50. ^ Donovan, Bill. "Census: Navajo enrollment tops 300,000". Navajo Times 7 July 2011 (retrieved 8 July 2011)
  51. ^ Removing Classrooms from the Battlefield: Liberty, Paternalism, and the Redemptive Promise of Educational Choice, 2008 BYU Law Review 377 The Navajo and Richard Henry Pratt
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^ a b Marjane Ambler, "While globalizing their movement, tribal colleges import ideas", Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education, Vol. 16 No.4 , Summer 2005, accessed 7 July 2011 Archived October 26, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  55. ^ American Indians and Alaska Natives and Diabetes. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.
  56. ^ Fonseca, Salt Lake Tribune, B10
  57. ^ "Navajo Division of Economic Development". Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  58. ^ Triefeldt, Laurie (2007) "The Navajo", People & Places Quill Driver Books/Word Dancer Press, Sanger, California, page 62, ISBN 978-1-884956-71-3
  59. ^ See the three volumes produced by the Bureau of Indian Affairs 1955–1956: Kiersch, George A. (1956) Mineral resources, Navajo-Hopi Indian Reservations, Arizona-Utah: geology, evaluation, and uses, volumes 1–3, United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona, OCLC 123188599
  60. ^ Statement by Senator Robert F. Bennett before the Committee on Indian Affairs
  61. ^ "Diné Development Corporation", retrieved 5 Oct 2009


See also

Other newsprint groups also serve the Nation. The media outlets include the Navajo/Hopi Observer, a free publication distributed through the Navajo region, and the Navajo Post, a web-based with print outlet that serves urban Navajos from its offices at Tempe. Non-Navajo papers also target Navajo audiences, such as the Gallup Independent.

Other newspapers


The Navajo Nation is served by various print media operations. The Navajo Times used to be published as the Navajo Times Today. Created by the Navajo Nation Council in 1959, it has been privatized, and remains the newspaper of record for the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Times is the largest Native American-owned newspaper company in the U.S.

Navajo Times


The Diné Development Corporation was formed in 2004 to promote Navajo business and seek viable business development to make use of casino revenues.[61]

Diné Development Corp.

In early 2008, the Navajo Nation and Houston-based IPP entered into an agreement to monitor wind resources, with the potential to build a 500-megawatt wind farm some 50 miles (80 km) north of Flagstaff. Known as the Navajo Wind Project, it is proposed to be the second commercial wind farm in Arizona after Iberdrola's Dry Lake Wind Power Project between Holbrook and Overgaard-Heber, Arizona. The Navajo Council approved the development via overriding a presidential veto in December 2010. Disagreement between the central Navajo government and the local Navajo Cameron Chapter have led to debate as to whether the development will be engaged as an energy resource.


An important small business group within the reservation is the handmade arts and crafts industry which markets both high and medium end quality goods made by Navajo artisans, jewelers and silversmiths. A 2004 study by the Navajo Division of Economic Development found that at least 60 percent of all families have at least one family member producing arts and crafts.

Navajo arts and craft enterprise

The Special Trustee for American Indians testified to the House Committee on Natural Resources and stated that his office did not have the capacity to administer the Utah Navajo Trust Fund in a manner required by the 1933 Act. The Utah Diné Corporation was established in order to maintain the Utah Navajo Oil Royalties after passage of Senate Bill 1690, proposed and sponsored by US Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT). It was to amend the Act of March 1, 1933, to transfer certain authority and resources to the Utah Diné Corporation, and for other purposes. [60]

The San Juan County, Utah.

Utah Dineh Corporation Inc

The Black Mesa and Lake Powell railroad conveys coal from Nation mines to the Navajo Generating Station at Page, Arizona. Peabody Energy's Black Mesa coal mine near Kayenta, a controversial strip mine, was shut down temporarily on December 31, 2005 for its emission credits. The mine had fed the Mohave Power Station at Laughlin, Nevada, via a slurry pipeline that used water from the Black Mesa aquifer. The Kayenta mine continues to provide significant revenues for the tribe, and incomes for the Navajo middle class.


The uranium market, which was active during and after the second World War, slowed near the end of that period. The Nation suffered considerable environmental and human contamination as a result of the evolution of and poorly regulated mines. As of 2005, the Navajo Nation has prohibited uranium mining altogether.

Mining - especially of coal and uranium - has provided significant income to the tribe in the second half of the 20th century. "The Navajo Nation's extensive mineral resources are among the most valuable held by Native American nations within the United States."[58][59] Such a significant income was experienced to secure a palpable Navajo middle class which remains today. The volume of coal mined has declined in the early 21st century, with the completion of the Chevron Corporation's P&M McKinley Mine in New Mexico, and the operational changes at mines near Shiprock.

Mineral extraction

Narbona Pass Chuska Mountains
  • Monument Valley (between Utah and Arizona border, near the town of Kayenta, Arizona)
  • Shiprock Pinacle (large volcanic remnants, elevation 7,178, located in New Mexico near Shiprock)
  • Navajo Mountain (mountain along Utah and Arizona border, elevation 10,318)
  • Navajo Nation Tribal Memorial Park
  • Chaco Canyon
  • Bisti Badlands
  • Canyon De Chelly
  • Window Rock Tribal Park
  • Antelope Mariana/Canyon
  • Lake Powell
  • Navajo Bridge
  • Little Colorado River Gorge
  • Kinlichee Ruins
  • Four Corners Monument
  • Hubble Trading Post
  • Grand Falls
  • Rainbow Bridge

Navajo Tribal Parks

Navajo Nation Code Talker Park

The Navajo Nation has created a mixture of industry and business which has provided the Navajo workforce with middle and working class opportunities. The unemployment level fluctuates between an overall 40 and 45 percent for the nation of reported U.S. taxed income. In some communities, it can go as high as 85 percent or as low as 15 percent.[57]

Dibé (sheep) remain an important aspect of Navajo culture and economy.

Early Navajo economy was based on sheep and cattle herding, wool and yarn production, blanket and rug production, and turquoise and silver jewelry making. Other Native American arts such as sand painting, sculpture, and pottery, have been added.


One in every 2,500 children in the Navajo population inherits severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a genetic disorder that results in children with virtually no immune system. In the general population, the genetic disorder is much more rare, affecting one in 100,000 children. The disorder is sometimes known as "bubble boy disease". This condition is a significant cause of illness and death among Navajo children. Research reveals a similar genetic pattern among the related Apache. In a December 2007 Associated Press article, Mortan Cowan, M.D., director of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Program at the University of California, San Francisco, noted that, although researchers have identified about a dozen genes that cause SCID, the Navajo/Apache population has the most severe form of the disorder. This is due to the lack of a gene designated "Artemis". Without the gene, children's bodies are unable to repair DNA or develop disease-fighting cells.[56]

Severe combined immunodeficiency

Diabetes mellitus is a major health problem among the Navajo, Hopi and Pima tribes, who are diagnosed at a rate about four times higher than the age-standardized U.S. estimate. Medical researchers believe increased consumption of carbohydrates, coupled with genetic factors, play significant roles in the emergence of this chronic disease among Native Americans.[55]


Navajo woman and child, c.1880-1910

Studies have proven the unregulated practices created severe environmental consequences for people living nearby. Several types of reproductive-organ cancers in teenage Navajo girls, averaging seventeen times higher than the average of girls in the United States.

Extensive uranium mining took place in areas of the Navajo Nation before environmental laws were passed or enforced on the control of hazardous wastes of such operations, or their fallout.

Uranium mining and large-scale effects on the Navajo People

Health concerns

Opened in 1979 as the Navajo Skill Center, the NTU at Crownpoint was renamed Navajo Technical College. This was the second tribally run college on the Navajo Nation. NTU has developed into a respected technical-vocational tribal college that addresses the continually changing dynamics of local industry. The university offers a broad selection of certificates and degree programs. It was renamed as a university in 2013 in recognition of its program expansion, under a resolution codified by The Navajo Nation Council.

Navajo Technical University (NTU)

The college includes the Center for Diné Studies. Its goal is to apply Navajo Sa'ah Naagháí Bik'eh Hózhóón principles to advance quality student learning through Nitsáhákees (thinking), Nahat'á (planning), Iiná (living), and Siihasin (assurance) in study of the Diné language, history, and culture. Students are prepared for further studies and employment in a multi-cultural and technological world.

Center for Diné Studies

The Navajo Nation operates Diné College, a two-year community college which has its main campus in Tsaile in Apache County, Arizona. The college also operates seven other sub-campuses throughout the nation. The Navajo Nation Council founded the college in 1968 as the first tribal college in the United States.[54] Since then, tribal colleges have been established on numerous reservations and now total 32.[54] Enrollment at Diné College is 1,830 students, of which 210 are degree-seeking transfer students for four-year institutions.

Diné College - Tsaile Campus

The Nation has six systems of secondary academic institutions that serve Navajo Students, including:

Secondary education

The Nation runs community Head Start Programs, the only educational program fully operated by the Navajo Nation government. Post-secondary education and vocational training are available on and off the reservation.

Education, and retention of the Navajo student is a significant priority.[52] Major problems faced by the Nation today surrounds building competitive GPAs for students on a national level, coupled with a very high drop-out rate[53] among high school students (especially when compared to their boarding school contemporaries of the 20th century). Over 150 public, private and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools serve Nation students from kindergarten through high school. Most schools are funded from the Navajo Nation under the Johnson O’Malley program.

Historically, the Navajo Nation resisted compulsory western education, including boarding schools, as imposed by General Richard Henry Pratt in the aftermath of the Long Walk.[51] This does not negate, however, the scope and breadth of traditional and home education provided by Navajo families and Custom since before the US occupation.

Navajo girl Canyon de Chelly, (1941) Ansel Adams


In 2004, the Navajo Nation Council voted down a proposal to reduce the blood quantum to one-eighth, which would have effectively doubled the number of individuals qualified to be enrolled Navajo tribal members.

Movement to lower blood quantum

The number of enrolled members of the Navajo Nation is 300,048, as of July 2011.[50] The 2000 census reported 173,987 Navajo citizens, 58.34% of all ethnic Navajos, living on the Navajo Nation's territory.

The Navajo Nation requires a blood quantum of one-quarter for a person to be eligible for enrollment as a member, the equivalent of one grandparent, or having one of four Diné clans, to be and to receive a Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB) as certified by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Tribal membership


The Navajo Nation observes Daylight Saving Time (DST). As it sits atop the Colorado Plateau, the Nation uses DST primarily for economic reasons as consistent parts of the Nation overlap into states - Utah and New Mexico - that observe DST. The portion of the Navajo Nation that falls inside the boundary of Arizona also adheres to DST, despite the decisions by the State of Arizona and the Hopi Reservation to opt out.[49]

Daylight Saving Time

Much of the Navajo Nation is situated atop the Colorado Plateau.


Situated within the Navajo Nation are Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Monument Valley, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the Shiprock monadnock, and the eastern portion of the Grand Canyon. Navajo Territory in New Mexico is popularly referred as the "Checkerboard" area since the Federal Government's attempt to diversify lands with non-native lands. Thus these Navajo lands are intermingled with fee lands, owned by both Navajos and non-Navajos, and federal and state lands under various jurisdictions. Three large non-contiguous sections located in New Mexico are also under Navajo jurisdiction and are the Ramah Navajo Indian Reservation, the Alamo Navajo Indian Reservation, and the Tohajiilee Indian Reservation near Albuquerque.

Adjacent to or near the Navajo Reservation are the Southern Ute of Colorado, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe of Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, both along the northern borders; the Jicarilla Apache Tribe to the east; the Zuni and White Mountain Apache to the south, and the Hualapai Bands in the west. The Navajo Nation's territory fully surrounds the Hopi Indian Reservation. In the 1980s, a conflict over shared lands peaked when the Department of the Interior attempted to relocate Navajo residents living in what is still referred to as the "Navajo/Hopi Joint Use Area." The litigious and social conflict between the two tribes and neighboring communities ended with the "Bennett Freeze" Agreement and was completed in July 2009 by President Barack Obama. The agreement lessened the contentious land disagreement with a 75-year lease to Navajos with claims dating to before the US occupation.

The land area of the Navajo Nation is 24,078.127 square miles (62,362.06 km2), making it the largest Indian reservation in the United States; it is nearly the same size as the state of West Virginia.

Navajo. Seven riders on horseback and dog trek against background of canyon cliffs. Edward S. Curtis (1904)
Map showing populated places on the Navajo Nation


In December 2012, Ben Shelly led a delegation of Navajos overseas to Israel where they toured the country as representatives for the Navajo people. In April 2013, Shelly's aide, Deswood Tome, led a delegation of Israeli agricultural specialists on a tour of Navajo resources on the Navajo reservation.[48]

International cooperation

Other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies routinely work within the Navajo Nation and include the BIA Police, National Park Service U.S. Park Rangers, U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations, Bureau of Land Management Law Enforcement, Ute Mountain Agency, Hopi Agency, and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Arizona Highway Patrol, Utah Highway Patrol, New Mexico Department of Public Safety (State Police and Highway Patrol), Apache County Sheriff's Office, Navajo County Sheriff's Office, McKinley County Sheriff's Office, US Marshals, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Serious breaches of law in Navajo Country are still adjudicated in Federal Courts. However, the Navajo Nation operates its own divisions of law enforcement via the Navajo Division of Public Safety, commonly referred to as the Navajo Nation Police (formerly the "Navajo Tribal Police"). Law enforcement functions are also delegated to the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife: Wildlife Law Enforcement and Animal Control Sections; Navajo Nation Forestry Law Enforcement Officers; and the Navajo Nation EPA Criminal Enforcement Section; Navajo Nation Resource Enforcement (Navajo Rangers).

Navajo Police Chevy Tahoe

Law enforcement

From 1988 to 2006, there were seven judicial districts and two satellite courts. As of 2010, there are ten judicial districts, centered respectively in Alamo (Alamo/Tó'hajiilee), Aneth, Chinle, Crownpoint, Dilkon, Kayenta, Ramah, Shiprock, Tuba City and Window Rock.[46] All of the districts also have family courts, which have jurisdiction over domestic relations, civil relief in domestic violence, child custody and protection, name changes, quiet title and probate. As of 2010, there were 17 trial judges presiding in the Navajo district and family courts.[47]

In December 1985, the Navajo Tribal Council passed the Judicial Reform Act of 1985, which eliminated the Supreme Judicial Council. It redenominated the "Navajo Tribal Court of Appeals" as the "Navajo Nation Supreme Court", and redenominated the "Trial Courts of the Navajo Tribe" as "District Courts of the Navajo Nation".[45] Navajo courts are governed by Title 7, "Courts and Procedures", of the Navajo Tribal Code.[45]

In 1978, the Navajo Tribal Council established a "Supreme Judicial Council", a political body rather than a court. On a discretionary basis, it could hear appeals from the Navajo Tribal Court of Appeals.[43] Subsequently, the Supreme Judicial Council was criticized for bringing politics directly into the judicial system and undermining impartiality, fairness and equal protection.[44]

The current judicial system for the Navajo Nation was created by the Navajo Tribal Council on 16 October 1958. It established a separate branch of government, the "Judicial Branch of the Navajo Nation Government", which became effective 1 April 1959.[42] The Navajo Court of Indian Offenses was eliminated; the sitting judges became judges in the new system. The resolution established "Trial Courts of the Navajo Tribe" and the "Navajo Tribal Court of Appeals", which was the highest court and the only appellate court.

In 1950, the Navajo Tribal Council decided that judges should be elected. By the time of the judicial reorganization of 1958, the Council had determined that, due to problems with delayed decisions and partisan politics, appointment was a better method of selecting judges.[40] The president makes appointments subject to confirmation by the Navajo Nation Council; however, the president is limited to the list of names vetted by the Judiciary Committee of the Council.[41]

In 1892, BIA Agent David L. Shipley established the Navajo Court of Indian Offenses, and appointed its judges.[39] Prior to that, judicial authority had been exercised by the Indian Agent.[39]

Prior to the Long Walk of the Navajo, Navajo judicial powers were exercised by peace chiefs (Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí Naatʼááh) in a mediation-style process.[38] While the people were held at Bosque Redondo, the U.S. Army handled severe crimes, while lesser crimes and disputes remained in the purview the villages' chiefs. After the return from Bosque Redondo in 1868, listed offenses were handled by the Indian Agent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs with the support of the U.S. Army, while lesser disputes remained under Navajo control.


Navajo voters in elections related to federal, state and county politics and government participate in the full spectrum of political party memberships. Popular parties with Navajo voters in their ranks include the Republican Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Democratic Party, and independents.

Navajo political parties

The Navajo Nation is divided into five agencies, with the seat of government located at the Navajo Governmental Campus at Window Rock/Tségháhoodzání. These agencies are similar to county entities and reflect the five Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agencies created in the early years of the Navajo Nation. The five agencies within the Navajo Indian Reservation are the Chinle Agency at Chinle, AZ; Eastern Navajo Agency at Crownpoint, NM; Western Navajo Agency at Tuba City, AZ; Fort Defiance Agency at Fort Defiance, AZ; and Shiprock Agency at Shiprock, NM. The BIA agencies provide various technical services under direction of the BIA's Navajo Area Office at Gallup, New Mexico. Agencies are further divided into chapters, similar to municipalities, as the smallest political unit. The Navajo capital city of Window Rock is located in the Chapter of St. Michaels, AZ. The Navajo Nation also retains executive offices in the District of Columbia for lobbying and congressional services.

Administrative divisions

In 1998, the council passed the "Local Governance Act", which extended the political roles of the existing 110 chapters, giving them authority to make decisions on behalf of the chapter members and take over certain roles previously delegated to the council and executive branches. This included entering into intergovernmental agreements with federal, state and tribal entities, subject to approval by the Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the Council. In addition to the local chapter government functions, regional government functions are carried out by the "District Grazing Committees" and "Off-Reservation Land Boards", "Major Irrigation Projects Farm Boards", and "Agency Councils".[37]

In the traditional Navajo culture, local leadership was organized around clans, which are matrilineal kinship groups. The clan leadership roles have served as a de facto government on the local level of the Navajo reservation. In 1927, agents of the U.S. federal government initiated a new form of local government entities called Chapters, modeled after government forms more familiar to the federal agents, such as counties or townships. Each Chapter elected officers and followed parliamentary procedures. By 1933, more than 100 chapters operated across the reservation. The chapters served as liaisons between the Navajo and the federal government, and also acted as precincts for the elections of tribal council delegates. They also served as forums for local tribal leaders. But, the chapters had no authority within the structure of the Navajo Nation government.[36]

Local and regional government

  • Amos Frank Singer, Early Council Delegate for Kaibito and designer of Navajo Seal.
  • Hoskie Cronemeyer, Council Delegate from Houck AZ who pushed for Navajo education in early 1900s
  • Henry Chee Dodge, first chairman of Navajo Tribal Council (1922–1928, 1942–1946)
  • Jacob (JC) Morgan, first tribally elected chairman (1938-1942)
  • Lilakai Julian Neil, first woman elected to Navajo Tribal Council (1946–1951)
  • Annie Dodge Wauneka, Navajo Tribal Councilwoman and philanthropist (1951–1978)
  • Peter MacDonald, Navajo Tribal chairman convicted for cause (1971–1983, 1987-1989)
  • Peterson Zah, Chairman and first president of the Navajo Nation (1983-1987, 1991–1995)
  • Joe Shirley Jr., oversaw the reduction of the Navajo Council and was removed from office by the council in an alleged conspiracy to retaliate over the action.
first Modern Navajo Leader and Navajo Chairman Chee Dodge

Notable Navajo politicians

The Navajo Nation Council, formerly the Navajo Tribal Council, is the legislative branch of the Navajo Nation. As of 2010, the Navajo Nation Council consists of 24 delegates representing the 110 chapters, elected every four years by registered Navajo voters. Prior to the November 2010 election, the Navajo Nation Council consisted of 88 representatives. The Navajo voted for the change in an effort to have a more efficient government and to curb tribal government corruption associated with council members who established secure seats.[35]


Russell Begaye, President. Jonathan Nez, Vice Pres. (2015-present)

Ben Shelly, President. Rex Lee Jim, Vice Pres. (2011–2015)

Joe Shirley Jr., President. Ben Shelly, Vice Pres. (2007-2011)

Joe Shirley Jr., President. Frank Dayish Jr., Vice Pres. (2003-2007)

• Kelsey Begay, President. Taylor Mckenzie, Vice Pres. (1999-2003)

• Milton Bluehouse, President. Frank Chee Willeto, Vice Pres. (1998-1999)

Thomas Atcitty, President. Milton Bluehouse, Vice Pres. (1998-1998)

Albert Hale, President. Thomas Atcitty, Vice Pres. (1995-1998)

Peterson Zah, President. Marshall Plummer, Vice Pres. (1991-1995)

Presidents and Vice-Presidents

The Navajo Nation Presidency, in its current form, was created on December 15, 1989 after directives from the Federal Government guided the Tribal Council to establish the judicial, legislative, and executive model in action now. This was a departure from the system of "Council and Chairmanship" from the previous government body. Conceptual additions were added to the language of Navajo Nation Code Title II, and the acts expanded the new government on April 1, 1990. There are a number of qualifications for each Navajo president, and his vice president, of which the administration is allowed to serve two consecutive terms only.[34]

The role of the executive of Navajo Nation has changed and expanded over the last one hundred years, and since the days the Head Chiefs of the tribe affixed their marks on the Treaty of 1868.


The Title II Amendment of 1989 established the Navajo Nation as a three part system (though changes to the judicial branch had already been commenced in 1958), consisting of two branches that are independent of the council (where all government decision making was centralized before the change). As parts of a three branch government, the president and vice-president are elected every four years, and the District Courts, and the Supreme Court, whose judges are nominated by the Executive and sustained by the Legislature.[32] The nation consists of several divisions, departments, offices, and programs as established by law which administer the laws of the Navajo Nation.[33]

Lands within the exterior boundaries of the Navajo Nation are composed of Public, Tribal Trust, Tribal Fee, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Private, State, and BIA Indian Allotment Lands. On the Arizona and Utah portions of the Navajo Nation, there are a few private and BIA Indian Allotments in comparison to New Mexico's portion which consists of a checkerboard pattern of all the aforementioned lands. The Eastern Agency, as it is referred to, consists of primarily Tribal Fee, BIA Indian Allotments, and BLM Lands. Although there are more Tribal Fee Lands in New Mexico, it is the intention of the Navajo Nation Government to convert most or all Tribal Fee Lands to Tribal Trust.

Most conflicts and controversies between the federal government and the Nation are settled by negotiations outlined in political agreements. The Navajo Nation Code comprises the rules and laws of the Navajo Nation as currently codified in the latest edition.

The 1871 Indian Appropriations Act was affirmed in 1886 by the US Supreme Court, in United States v. Kagama, which affirmed that the Congress has Plenary power over all Native American tribes within its borders by rationalization that "The power of the general government over these remnants of a race once powerful ... is necessary to their protection as well as to the safety of those among whom they dwell".[30] The Supreme Court affirmed that the US Government "has the right and authority, instead of controlling them by treaties, to govern them by acts of Congress, they being within the geographical limit of the United States.... The Indians owe no allegiance to a State within which their reservation may be established, and the State gives them no protection."[31]

United States v. Kagama

The United States still asserts plenary power and thus requires the territory of the Navajo Nation to submit all proposed laws to the United States Secretary of the Interior for Secretarial Review, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Tségháhoodzání, the "Window Rock"


On January 7, five assistant attorneys-general filed petition with the Navajo Nation Supreme Court for clarification on the question of the presidential vacancy issue. Through a controversial agreement and resolution,[29] referenced as CD-80-14 and CD-81-14, the Court and the Council with LoRenzo Bates - acting Speaker Pro Tem, and Councilor Leonard Tsosie was joined by Otto Tso, councilman-elect, and Amber K. Crotty, Director – Diné Policy Institute as signatories appointed Ben Shelly to act as interim President. The move was in contradiction to Navajo Code § 1006.

On the first day of the year, the Navajo Council convened to hear a bill that would hold a primary and general election in June and August 2015. The legislation passed the chamber with over half of the body absent, in a controversial 11-1.[27] On Monday, January 5, President Shelly in the twilight of his first term in office vetoed the bill.[28]


The following Monday, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors (NBES) met but took no action to implement the court directives. Counsel for NBES motioned the High Court for further instruction. The next day, the Navajo Nation Election Board commissioner, Wallace Charley, (he was joined later by Kimmeth Yazzie, Navajo Election Administration) announced that Deschene's name would remain on the ballot.[24] Though he vowed to continue, Deschene later bowed out of the race on October 30.[25] On October 29, Ben Shelly vetoed the bill.[26] The Navajo General Election was held. The unofficial tally found Joe Shirley, Jr. with the majority.

The High Court ruled that the presidential election scheduled for November 4 (12 days later), would be postponed and ordered that it be held by the end of January 2015.[20] Chief Justice Herb Yazzie[21] and Associate Justice Eleanor Shirley ruled for the 2-1 majority; Justice Irene Black wrote in her dissent that the technicality must be sent back to the lower court for correction there. The decision did not outline who would act as executive at the end of the current president's term (January 2015). In the early hours of October 24, the Navajo Council passed legislative Bill 0298-14[22] amending the Navajo Nation Code. In a vote 11-10-3 the legislation dissolved the language requirement of the qualifications sections for President. The legislation would have retroactively allowed for Chris Deschene's participation.[23]

On October 23,[16] the Office of Hearings and Appeals held the first hearing on the complaint filed against Deschene. The meeting was presided by chief hearing officer Ritchie Nez.[17] The court body ruled in favor of Dale Tsosie[18] and Hank Whitethorne, the former primary candidates, and issued a default ruling against Deschene who refused to participate. Later that day, the Navajo Supreme Court, in a special session on the matter, enforced the ruling from the lower Court body and ordered that the Navajo government remove Deschene from the presidential ballot.[19]

October 23

In the weeks following, two other primary candidates sued in tribal court, invoking a never before used 1990s law to determine Navajo Language skill.[15]

On August 25, 2014, the Navajo Nation held primary elections for the Office of President.[14] Joe Shirley, Jr and Chris C. Deschene had the two highest vote counts.

Primary election

2014 Navajo Code crises

In 2006, a committee for a "Navajo constitution" began advocating for a Navajo constitutional convention. The committee's goal is to have representation from every chapter on the Navajo Nation represented at a constitutional convention. The committee proposes the convention be held in the traditional naachid/modern chapter house format, where every member of the nation wishing to participate may do so through their home chapters. The committee was formed by former Navajo leaders: Kelsey Begaye, Peterson Zah, Peter MacDonald, writer/social activist Ivan Gamble, and other local political activists.[13]


of 1934 (IRA) in 1935. Mounting tensions over BIA Superintendent John Collier's attempt to reduce herd size was met with great distrust which eventually affected the consideration and ultimately the passing of the first version. In the various attempts since members found the process to be too cumbersome and a potential threat to tribal self-determination. The earlier efforts were rejected primarily because segments of the tribe did not find enough freedom in the proposed forms of government or hindered develop of their livestock industries in 1935, and mineral resources in 1953. [12]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.