Navajo government to be for the people

May 4, 2007

Editor:

White men have instituted governments in order to secure their rights and our rights, [and] that governments devised for this purpose derive their just powers from the consent of the people, who have the right to vote.

A government having just powers, is a government by right, not might. Just powers have authority as well as force. That authority derives from the consent of the American people.

American citizens expressed the view that "every person that is to live under a government ought first by his or her own consent to put himself or herself under that government."

The justice of a government can be measured in part by the extent to which it secures the natural rights of its people. That measure of justice does not derive from the consent of the people. It is the just powers of a government depend for their justice for their authority upon the consent of the people.

In governments imposed by might, the people are involuntarily subject to the power exercised by their ruler. In governments instituted, the people themselves build a government and confer upon its powers to which they voluntarily consent.

Putting it together, framing and adopting a constitution is one way-perhaps not the only way-in which Navajo people who regard themselves as having the right to govern themselves can build a government to serve...as [a] sovereign, treaty government.

Navajo people ask, "What is a constitution?" It is the framework of a government. It defines the offices of government and allocates to them certain governmental functions that each is expected to perform. It invests those offices, sometimes called the departments or branches of government with the authority they need in order to perform these functions.

The Navajo Nation President, Vice President, councilmen and officials [are part] of a constituted government-its officeholders-have no authority or power in their own persons in a constitutional government. They have only such authority or power as the constitution confers upon the offices they hold. For the Navajo Nation President, Vice President and councilmen to claim to themselves more power or authority than pertains to their offices amounts to usurpation on their part, and should be punishable by removal from office.

Framing and constituting a government by the consent of the Navajo people does confer on Navajo Nation government officials some of a people's power to govern the Navajo Nation.

In Abraham Lincoln's famous address [where he states,] "government of the people, by the people, for the people," it is the first phrase that expresses the notion that constitutional government derives its just powers from the consent of the people. The word "of' in that phrase is misinterpreted when it is thought to mean that the people [emphasis added] are subject to government. In that sense of the word "of," all governments ([dictatorial] as well as constitutional) are government[s] of the people; that is, the people are subject to its laws.

When the word "of' is interpreted to mean that the government belongs to the people, that it is voluntarily instituted by them, has no more power than that to which they have given their consent, do the words "government of the people" signify constitutional government.

"What about the minority voters, who vote no on these occasions?" Since majority rule cannot become a regulative principle by the consent of the majority, we must assume that all members of the people have unanimously accepted it. Unanimity is required for majority rule to become operative. The minority who voted against adopting the constitution, or voted against petitioning for Navajo constitutional government gave their consent implicitly when they retained their status as citizens and acted politically in [that] capacity. In doing so, they tacitly consented in the constitution as the framework of a government in which they participated.

Consenting citizens can become dissenting citizens on one occasion or another when they protest against law[s] or acts they deem unjust as violations of their natural rights or other reasons. Such dissent remains clearly within the boundaries of consent as long as it is dissent by due process of law and employs constitutional or legal means for seeking the redress of grievances.

All those who do not clearly express [their intent] withdraw their consent, including those who dissent within the boundaries of consent, can be regarded as implicitly giving it.

Edward Johnson Little Sr.

Tuba City

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