Established by Title 2 of the Navajo Nation Code, Navajo tribal government resembles the United States three-branch system[i]. More specifically, the legislative branch is the Navajo Nation Council which is comprised of 24 council delegates[ii] who represent 110 chapter houses across the 27,413 mi² reservation.
Council Delegates are elected every four years[iii] and do not have a limit on the number of terms they run[iv]. Delegates hold considerable power as their vote directly affects the approval or denial of law, changing or removal of law, policy, funding requests, spending bills and even business agreements.
Delegates must be at least 25 years of age at time of election and be an enrolled member of the Navajo tribe[v]. Unswerving loyalty to Navajo Nation is expected as no delegate can be permanently employed or politically elected by the United States including any states or subdivisions thereof[vi]. Private practice of law is also prohibited while serving as a Navajo Nation Council Delegate[vii].
Delegates are paid an annual salary in addition to a per diem for each official business day where a meeting is held and are given a mileage reimbursement for their travel[viii]. The Navajo Nation also provides group insurance for delegates and their dependents, paying a percentage of the premium as part of their contribution[ix].
Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council
Every two years, one of the delegates is elected by the Navajo Nation Council as Speaker[x] and may be removed by a two-thirds vote[xi]. Some of the Speaker’s duties and powers include: directing and supervising the personnel and programs under the Legislative Branch, appointing a Speaker Pro Tem, only voting in the event of a tie, calling special sessions of the Council, recommending the annual operating budget, and even issuing certificates of Condolence, Congratulations, Appreciation, Recognition, or Achievement on the behalf of the Navajo Nation[xii]. Upon election, the Speaker places Council Delegates in 1 of 4 standing committees[xiii]. The speaker is only required to attend Navajo Nation Council and Naabik’iyati Committee meetings.
Legislation cycles through committees depending on criteria with “NABI” being a final stop (for discussing legislation) before a Council session. Chairperson and vice-chairperson of the committee are elected by the committee[xiv]
Budget and finance committee
Health, Education, and Human Services Committee
Resources and development committee
Law and Order Committee
Naabik’iyati’ Committee (NABI)
All regularly scheduled or special meetings shall be held at the Navajo Nation Council Chambers and if the Chambers is unsuitable for meeting the speaker may designate an alternate meeting place in Window Rock[xv]. Four regular sessions are commenced yearly on the fourth Monday of January and the third Monday of April, July, and October at 10am[xvi]. Each session is limited to five working days and is a minimum of six hours each day[xvii]. Meetings do not start until a quorum majority is present[xviii]. Each standing committee must consist of an individual from each agency of the Navajo Nation[xix] and any delegate with personal, family or business interests in matters before the committee shall not participate in the committee or vote on the matter.[xx]
[i] 2 N.N.C § 1. Navajo Nation government establishment
[ii] 2 N.N.C § 102 (A). Powers; composition
[iii] 2 N.N.C § 105 (A). Term of Office
[iv] 2 N.N.C § 105(B). Term of Office
[v] 2 N.N.C § 103. Qualifications
[vi] 2 N.N.C § 104 (A). Incompatible service
[vii] 2 N.N.C § 104 (D). Incompatible service
[viii] 2 N.N.C § 106 (B). Compensation of Council Delegates
[ix] 2 N.N.C § 108 (A-B). Group Insurance
[x] 2 N.N.C § 282 (B). Selection of the Speaker, term of office
[xi] 2 N.N.C § 286 (A). Removal; vacancy
[xii] 2 N.N.C § 285 (B). Powers and duties
[xiii] 2 N.N.C § 102 (G). Powers; composition
[xiv] 2 N.N.C § 184 (A). Chairperson; vice-chairperson; chairperson pro tem
[xv] 2 N.N.C § 161 (A). Place
[xvi] 2 N.N.C § 162 (A). Number; time; duration
[xvii] 2 N.N.C § 161 (C). Number; time; duration
[xviii] 2 N.N.C § 169 (A). Quorum
[xix] 2 N.N.C § 181 (B). Membership
[xx] 2 N.N.C § 191. Conflict of Interest.
What is a legislation? A legislation is a body of laws that are considered collectively in the process of becoming law.