Navajo Nation Council overrides Shirley vetoes

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The Navajo Nation Council overrode two vetoes by Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. Feb. 23, making the Foundation of Diné, Diné Law and Diné Government Act of 2009 and the Office of Legislative Counsel Amendments Act of 2010 Navajo Nation law.

By a majority vote of 69-11, the Council overrode the veto of Resolution CJA-08-10, which enacted the Foundation of Diné, Diné Law and Diné Government Act of 2009. The vote was a milestone in the development and implementation of the Diné Fundamental Law first adopted by the Council by a simple majority vote in November 2002.

According to Council Delegate Leonard Chee (Birdsprings/Leupp/Tolani Lake), various chapters across the Navajo Nation, particularly in the Western Agency, passed resolutions long before the Council passed legislation amending the use of Diné Fundamental Law.

The amendment clarifies the use of the Diné Fundamental Law as a general statement of guiding principles, which will assist the Diné in acknowledging, protecting, observing and becoming more educated in the values and principles inherent in the Diné Life Way. Further, the amendments maintain respect for the various spiritual beliefs, practices and contributions of all persons within the Navajo Nation and maintain the specific roles, responsibilities and authorities of the three branches of contemporary Navajo Nation Government.

The amendments to the law also maintain the principles set forth in the Diné Fundamental Law, while clarifying the proper of the law within the Navajo Nation government. The law will not be used to supersede or replace Navajo Nation statutory laws or policies adopted by leaders of the Navajo Nation Legislative Branch, and it provides for consensual resolution of the law through the peacemaking process.

According to the Navajo Nation Code, Diné Fundamental Laws should only be used in the absence of written laws of the Navajo Nation, but this was not the case on several matters the Nation faced with its misinterpretation and misuse.

In 2003 and 2004, Navajo Nation Chapters passed resolutions recommending amendments or the possible repeal of the Diné Fundamental Law. The chapters included: LeChee Chapter, Inscription House Chapter, Kayenta Chapter, Coppermine Chapter, Chinle Chapter, as well as the Western Navajo Agency Council, which consists of all chapter officers, grazing committee members and Navajo Nation Council delegates located within that agency.

The chapter resolutions stated Diné Fundamental Law violated Subsection 4 of Title 1 of the Navajo Bill of Rights, which prohibits the Navajo Nation Council from passing law that establishes a religion. Further, the resolutions assert the implementation of these laws violate the principals of traditional Navajo religion, which should be learned, practiced and educated to a few chosen individuals.

Chee said the people forecasted the effects of Diné Fundamental Law when legislation was passed by the 19th Navajo Nation Council. "The people foresaw some issues and problems of implementing Diné Fundamental Law back in 2002," Chee said. "Sure enough, these issues and concerns the people voiced have surfaced recently causing problems."

In other Council action, Resolution CF-12-10 overrode a second veto by President Shirley by a vote of 66-14. This legislation pertains to the Office of Legislative Counsel Amendments Act of 2010. The vote clears the way for the Office of Legislative Counsel to provide additional legal services to the Legislative Branch of the Navajo Nation.

Chief Legislative Counsel Frank Seanez explained, "The Office of Legislative Counsel has received additional tools with which to serve the Legislative Branch. The Office will use these tools in a responsible manner to help build a stronger Navajo Nation for the future of the Diné. I am humbled by the support of the Council in providing additional responsibilities to the Office of Legislative Counsel and dedicate myself to fulfilling the additional duties delegated to the Office."

The Navajo Nation Council also confirmed Donaldson A. June to the board of directors for the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise for a three-year term by a vote of 77-0.

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