Published on March 8, 2013 by Casey
The Navajo Nation Council is the legislative branch of the Navajo Nation government. As stipulated in the Navajo Nation Code, “The Legislative Branch shall consist of the Navajo Nation Council and any entity established under the Navajo Nation Council. The Legislative Branch shall not be amended unless approved by majority of all registered Navajo voters through a referendum.”
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It has 24 elected members from the 110 chapters that make up the Navajo Nation. It is presided over by a Speaker who is elected by the council. The council meets at least four times a year in the capital of the Navajo Nation, Window Rock, AZ. The council delegates represent their respective chapters and when council is in session; issues pertaining to their chapters are discussed and new legislation is passed.
The Diné created the ceremonial gatherings called Naachʼid which met every 2–4 years or on emergency basis. The traditional Navajo government was organized around the principles of Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí dóó Hashkééjí or the nurturing and protection aspects of governance. Clans chose two representatives to attend these assemblies. The purpose of this ceremony was to protect and nurture the Diné. An individual who was selected to participate in that council was called naalchʼid. Hashkééjí Naatʼááh, translated as war chief, protected the people from any harm, from negative powers and from themselves as they moved away from the principles of Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí. Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí Naatʼááh, or peace chief, nurtured the individual, assisting the people to live in accordance with the principles of kʼé, to aide the community to maintain their relationships with all creation.
The Navajo Business Council was created in 1922 by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in order to certify mineral leases on the Navajo reservation. During its first meeting, the council acquiesced to U.S. pressure to grant the oil companies use of the land. In return, the Navajo Nation was promised more land that could be used for subsistence farming and sheep grazing. This first council was headed by Henry Chee Dodge. After refusing to adopt Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier’s Indian Reorganization Act in 1934, the Navajo Tribal Council reformed in 1937. The name Navajo Nation Council or sometimes Navajo Nation Tribal Council came into use in 1989. The name change occurred with the Title II Amendments of 1989 which established a three branch government system. This created a clear division of Executive and Legislative powers by introducing two new positions as leaders of the executive branch, the President and Vice-President, and the new title of the leadership of the council, the Speaker of the Council.
Until 1984, the Council and Navajo Nation had been supported by funding from the wealth of natural resources on the reservation but in 1984 the council established the Permanent Trust Fund in which 12% of all revenue each year were deposited. It wasn’t until 2004 that funds from the trust fund could be accessed.
The Navajo Nation Council reserves all powers delegated and all powers not delegated. The Navajo Nation Council shall have all powers to discipline and/or regulate the conduct of its members, including removal. The Navajo Nation Council shall have the authority to promulgate rules, regulations and procedures for the conduct of its meetings and that of its committees. The Navajo Nation Council shall confirm the appointments of all division directors upon recommendation from the appropriate oversight committee. The Navajo Nation Council shall establish standing committees of the Council and delegate such authority to such committees as it deems necessary and proper for such committees to execute the purposes delegated