Navajo Government History
When European settlers began to explore the expansive lands of North America, the Navajo people already had a thriving culture in the Colorado Plateau. This region, which is now called the Four Corners because of how four U.S. states come together, would serve as the foundation of the culture’s government history.
The story begins with the Long Walk. The Navajo people were being incarcerated by settlers moving west because of “incursions” on settler land. In 1864, they would eventually begin being released and given their own land base through reservation establishment treaties.
The first established government for the Navajo would be formed in 1868.
When Was the Nation Government Established?
The first Tribal Council for the Navajo people was established in 1923. Before this council was established, the Navajo were a fractured people. Each group had its own reservation-based territory that it controlled.
The first Tribal Council was established from the existing leadership of the various communities. There would not be an election for the Navajo people to send representatives to this council until 1938.
The Navajo government would remain in this format until 1989. In December of that year, legislation called the Title 2 Amendment was passed. This amendment transformed the government into a three-branch system, similar to what other democratically-based governments were offering around the world.
Who Leads the Navajo People?
The executive branch of the Navajo government is headed by a President and a Vice-President, who are elected by popular vote. Each serves a term of four years once elected.
In the judicial branch, there is a Chief Justice, who is appointed by the President. To serve, the Chief Justice must be confirmed by the Navajo Nation Council.
It is this council which serves as the legislative branch for the Navajo people. There are 24 elected members, referred to as Council Delegates, and they each serve a 4-year term as well. When this branch is not in session, then there are standing committees which continue on the work until the government comes back into session.
Most government meetings are still conducted in the language of the Navajo, which was used by the United States as a code because it could not be deciphered by enemy troops during the second world war.