Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Wed, Feb. 26

VIEWPOINT: Can't we all just get along?

Over the past few weeks, I've been reading about how the Navajo Nation's Executive Branch (essentially President Joe Shirley Jr.) and Legislative Branch (essentially Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan) are at odds with one another over President Shirley's proposed Presidential Initiative on Government Reform. This proposed reform entails including two major initiatives on the Nov. 4 ballot for the Navajo people to vote on. One is to reduce the number of Navajo Nation Council delegates from 88 to 24, and the other is to give the President line-item veto power.

President Shirley's main reason for bringing about these initiatives "is to bring needed accountability to the Navajo government, to protect tribal money from wasteful spending and to allow Navajo citizens greater participation in their government."

Speaker Morgan rebutted by stating, "This initiative does not represent reform, but it does represent an attempt by [President Shirley] to overtake the government."

And so, for weeks, this war of words and wills has been going back and forth.

That being said, I feel that as a non-Navajo, I am in a unique position to interpret this clash of ideologies as simply a matter of sacrifice and compromise. In order for this system of government to work for the benefit of the Navajo people, there has to be certain sacrifices and compromises made on both sides. Here's just an example of how this might work. Perhaps the Legislative Branch might be willing to compromise by saying, "OK, let's try reducing the council to 50 delegates instead of 24," and in response to that, the Executive Branch might say, "OK, if you're going to do that, then I'll sacrifice my line-item veto." Unfortunately, it won't be quite so simple.

It won't simply be a matter of going, "eeny, meeny, miney, moe" and choosing the lesser of two evils, nor is it a matter of trying to ascertain whether or not existing in a world with 24 council delegates is worse than living in a world with 88 council delegates. It is simply a matter of making the best possible choices that will benefit the future of the Navajo Nation as a whole. However, as a non-Navajo, I cannot be the one to say whether 24 delegates is in fact better than 88 delegates or vice versa, but the results of our poll question on seems to indicate that people are in favor of reducing the number of council delegates. At last count, 51 respondents strongly agreed with President Shirley's decision to reduce the number of council delegates while only 15 respondents strongly disagreed with the decision. It's therefore quite obvious that many people feel like (as my late father used to say) there are "too many chiefs and not enough Indians" in the Navajo Nation Council.

Interestingly enough, however, Speaker Morgan mentioned the concept of K'e in a May 8 press release in which he criticized President Shirley's assertion that the Navajo Nation government should be modeled after the Arizona state government in which only two U.S. senators represent 8 million Arizonans. Morgan asked, "Why are we applying a federal model [of government] to the Navajo Nation? We have different issues. We are a different group of people. We use the system of K'e."

K'e, to my understanding, is the creation and continuation of peaceful relationships through kinship and respect for self and others. There are certain "rules of thumb" to follow in order to maintain this delicate balance of peaceful coexistence in nature and in social groups. These rules work to establish relationships of goodwill and solidarity and promote the creation of strong and enduring bonds. Basically, respect begets respect.

I believe it was an episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation during which two commanders are at odds with one another, and one finally says to the other, "We don't have to like each other to be able to work together." By their actions, it is quite obvious that President Shirley and Speaker Morgan are at odds with one another, but instead of working with each other and making a few necessary sacrifices and compromises to show the Navajo people that they are willing to work together, their clash of ideals threatens to further divide the Navajo Nation.

In order for a true balance of power to exist, one of them might have to tip the scales and give up something they don't want to and work mutually to come up with a solution that they may not necessarily like, but that would best serve the people of the Navajo Nation.

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