Navajo To Vote For President April 21

By Laurel Morales
April 20, 2015
(Photo via
Russell Begaye
(Photo via
Joe Shirley Jr.

If all goes as planned, Navajo voters will finally get a chance to cast their ballot for the tribe’s president April 21. The election was postponed in November over a language issue

Former candidate Chris Deschene was disqualified for admitting he did not speak the Navajo language fluently. Russell Begaye came in third in the presidential primary. So he will face off against Joe Shirley Jr.

Manley Begay, no relation, is an indigenous studies professor at Northern Arizona University. The “election crisis,” as he calls it, has become much more than a language issue. It’s exposed a bigger problem about the tribal government.

“Laws and rules must not change at whim to accommodate personal political agendas,” Begay said. 

Begay said the Navajo Nation is at a crossroads. And the tribe needs to make some changes so the Navajo people can count on a stable government.

“We must have a politically independent judiciary, we must have a separation of powers and we must have checks and balances,” Begay said.

Candidate Joe Shirley Jr. has said government reform would be top priority on his agenda.

Navajo voters will tackle the language issue separately in June, when they vote to change or keep the requirement that their president be fluent in Navajo.