Council seeks input for Navajo Nation name change

Navajo Council questions how nation should identify itself, asking tribe for input on changing name to Diné Nation

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On Jan. 27, the Navajo Nation Council tabled a motion to change the name of the Navajo Nation to Diné Nation until the spring council session in April and after seeking input from the Navajo people.

Following nearly two hours of discussion, legislation sponsor Council Delegate Jonathan Hale (Oak Springs, St. Michaels) agreed to table the motion to allow more time for the Navajo people to discuss and consider the name change. 

“The intent of the legislation was to question how we identify ourselves,” Hale said. “Then we question ourselves as council delegates, should this question be up to the Navajo people or the legislators? We also need to hear what our people think about this.”

Hale also pointed out that the legislation received no public comments during the five-day comment period.

Title 2 of the Navajo Nation Code provides a five-day comment period for the Navajo Nation executive branch, chapter governments and the public to provide comments to legislations that will be considered by the Navajo Nation Council Standing Committees and Council.

“If we change the Nation’s name to ‘Diné Nation’, how much will it cost?” asked Council Delegate Herman Daniels Jr. (Shonto, Naa’tsis’Áán, Oljato, Ts’ah Bii Kin. “Where will the money come from to make the change?”

Daniels referred to changes that would have to be made to supplies, equipment and more.

“Also, many of our local chapter governments have changed their names to Navajo translated names, but the majority of the public still use the old names,” he said. “For example, Navajo Mountain Chapter changed their name to ‘Naa’tsis’Áán Chapter,’ but people still identify the chapter as Navajo Mountain. Our Navajo people are used to the name Navajo.”

In support of the legislation, Council Delegate Nathaniel Brown (Chilchinbeto, Dennehotso, Kayenta) said the name change would allow people to properly identify themselves as Diné.

“It may be true that we are known as Navajo to the world, but how do we identify ourselves in prayers?” Brown asked. “We identify ourselves as Diné in front of the Holy People. The word Navajo is a generic term that was given to us by the federal government. We constantly tell our children to learn the language and culture and allowing the name change will be a first step to revitalizing our language.”

According to Brown, many people interpret the word, Diné, as ‘The People,’ but some council members were concerned that the word Diné may be associated with different meanings and interpretations.

“For example, the word Diné may translate into ‘The People’ or refer to a male,” Daniels said.

After a lengthy debate among council members, the council approved a tabling motion by Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay, Jr. (Low Mountain, Many Farms, Nazlini, Tachee/Blue Gap, Tselani/Cottonwood) to allow more time for consideration.

“The legislation [raises] many questions,” Begay said. “I believe that we need insight from the elders, chapters and youth. We also need clear recommendations and explanation of the word Diné.”

The legislation states that if the change is approved it would go into effect October 2017 to allow time to plan and implement the name change.

Public comments in reference to Legislation No. 0395-16 can be submitted as follows:

Digital comments may be e-mailed to: comments@navajo-nsn.gov

Written comments may be mailed to: Executive Director, Office of Legislative Services, P.O. Box 3390, Window Rock, AZ 86515

Written comments may be faxed to: (928) 871-7259

The council tabled the legislation until the Spring council session in April where they will hold a work session to consider the name change again.

Comments

Comments are not posted immediately. Submissions must adhere to our Use of Service Terms of Use agreement. Rambling or nonsensical comments may not be posted. Comment submissions may not exceed a 200 word limit, and in order for us to reasonably manage this feature we may limit excessive comment entries.

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.