Navajo Nation Dismisses Complaints Against Presidential Candidate

September 10, 2014
Courtesy of the Deschene 2014 campaign
Chris Deschene says he's a product of cultural destruction. That's why his Navajo speaking skills are limited. But he continues to practice.

Many Navajo voters complained that a presidential candidate should not be eligible to run for office because he doesn’t speak Navajo fluently. But the tribe’s election officials have dismissed these grievances.

The group that complained said many tribal members, especially elders, don’t speak English so it’s important for the president to speak Dine, the Navajo language. And according to Navajo Code it’s required.

But the Office of Hearings and Appeals dismissed the complaints, saying a voter who is not a candidate for office does not have standing to complain about a candidate’s qualifications.

Presidential candidate Chris Deschene blamed the federally run boarding schools that demanded English be spoken and what he called the cultural destruction that occurred as a result.

“There are many thousands of young folks my age,” Deschene said. “And it’s not just limited to the Navajo Nation. We can talk about any number of tribal communities throughout the country, the preservation and revitalization and protection of the language is a critical element.”

And Deschene said he was raised with elders who spoke Navajo and he continues to practice speaking and writing the language every day.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to reflect it was the Office of Hearings and Appeals that dismissed the complaints.

Updated 9/11/2014 at 11:13 a.m.