To the editor:
Recently I had an opportunity to listen to a group of young Navajo professionals employed and living in off-reservation communities. One of the issues we debated was why they weren't working for their tribe's government.
They feel that unless our leaders revise the minimum qualifications for council delegates, the president, vice president and the speaker, growth and development needs for Navajo people may never be addressed. This seems to be the main reason they seek employment elsewhere.
These young professionals are encouraged by the announcement that some level of reform is to start, but to them talk is cheap. They argue true reform will not occur unless we start electing people into office that are qualified and adequately trained.
Their outlook is the tribal government system should be a reflection of the people inside the system, and unless you change the leadership inside that system, the system never changes.
As well, they believe council delegates and tribal leaders must possess "academic qualifications" that would enable them to discuss developmental issues at the grassroots level and with outside corporate and government entities.
Several stressed the necessity that Diné Nation leaders must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree while qualification for the president, vice president and speaker should be set at a master's and higher levels. In addition, leadership experience as an executive of a large organization both on and off the reservation (emphasis on high level executive experience) should be a requirement.
They rationalized the current practice where every candidate is conversant in Navajo is eligible to stand as a leader was detrimental to Navajo's development as some fail to effectively represent the Nation due to low levels of organizational leadership and executive management skills. In its place, for starters, they demand in addition to being fluent in both Navajo and English, elected leaders should be technologically literate and able to write and comprehend written language at a much higher level.
I agree with our young leaders. We must urge Navajo voters to revise the set minimum qualifications for chapter officials, council delegates, the speaker, the president and vice president
Even with the condition our nation is in, these young Navajo leaders still feel optimistic that we have an opportunity to set the tone for Indian country development provided we ensure that leadership is enshrined in people with the necessary qualifications. As one put it, "Our number one priority is a leadership change so we can get back to taking care of the people's business."
As suggested by our young leaders, the reform discussion between the President and Speaker might appear as a good beginning. The main ingredient that is missing in my view is how we will attract more highly qualified Navajo leaders to take on roles of leadership in this critical effort facing our Nation.
Window Rock, Ariz.