Letter: Navajo referendum vote is crucial first step in the right direction

To the editor:

The overwhelming votes to reduce the council from 88 to 24 and to give the Navajo Nation President the authority to exercise the line item veto over appropriation of tribal funds is a vote of no confidence in the Navajo Nation Council. The authority given to the Navajo Nation Council as the governing body by the Bureau of Indian Affairs is now in question.

The results of the Tuesday referendum votes clearly demonstrates that the Navajo people want a checks and balances between the three branches of government; that the Navajo voters also want a more decentralized Navajo government whereby the chapter governments and the agency council would have a greater authority than their current recommending roles.

For example, the appropriate process would start at the chapter level, then to the agency council and finally, the Navajo Nation Council would more or less "rubber stamp" the five agency budget proposals.

The central administration of tribal programs would be moved to the agency levels, leaving the central administration with the role of review and compliance in accordance with federal and tribal laws and regulations. The actual program operations should be headquartered at the agency levels. The chapter administrators could be centralized at the district level in order to bring more expertise at the local level, such as with budget preparation, financial administration and comprehensive planning.

In order to make the Navajo government more responsive to the Navajo voters, more top positions such as attorney general, chief justice, education director, election director and finance director would be elected positions. Also, it is vitally important that the ethics board or commission be elected by the voters.

While the Tuesday election results demonstrate a need to reform the Navajo government, only a comprehensive reform would achieve a more responsive government for the Navajo people. This vote is a start, but the road to a real reform of the Navajo government will take 10 or more years to achieve, but the first step has been taken.

Daniel Peaches

Kayenta, Ariz.

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