Council votes to keep Navajo Nation, votes no on Diné Nation name

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On April 19, Legislation No. 0395-16, which sought to amend Title II of the Navajo Nation Code to change the designated name of the Navajo Nation to Diné Nation, failed to garner enough support from the Navajo Nation Council.

In January, during the Winter Council Session, the Council tabled the legislation along with a directive to hold a work session to hear perspectives from others, including the elderly and the Navajo Code Talker Association about the possible name change. Council members also requested cost estimates on implementing the name change, chapter resolutions to assess the public’s input and additional research on the origin of the word, Diné.

Legislative sponsor Council Delegate Jonathan Hale (Oak Springs, St. Michaels) said the name change would only apply to the Navajo Nation government, including departments, divisions, agencies, entities and enterprises.

“The name change would only reflect the Navajo Nation government. Other non-governmental entities would not be affected by the change, such as the Navajo Code Talkers. This was the request of our youth,” Hale said.

The legislation states that all correspondence, stationary, and letterheads of Navajo government entities would use Diné Nation rather than Navajo Nation.

Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie (Baca/Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Counselor, Littlewater, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, Whitehorse Lake) opposed the name change, stating that it would create confusion and frustration among Navajo citizens and non-Navajos.

On April 18, Council Delegate Norman M. Begay (Alamo, Ramah, Tohajiilee) proposed an amendment to exempt the communities of Alamo, Tohajilee and Ramah from adopting the name change, stating the chapters did not have enough time to discuss and consider the name change.

It would cost the Navajo Nation government approximately $57,000 to replace calendars, promotional items, stationery, stationery supply forms and office supply promotions.

In support of the legislation, Council Delegate Davis Filfred (Mexican Water, Aneth, Teecnospos, Tółikan, Red Mesa) stated that the name change would be a positive change.

“The word ‘Navajo’ is not our people’s word. The term is not a part of our traditional language. The Spaniards and the federal government gave us that identity as Navajo. Diné College has created a positive model for us to follow. One day, we will change our name like the college,” he said.

Council Delegate Walter Phelps (Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Leupp, Tolani Lake, Tsidi To ii) recommended that the Navajo public through a referendum election vote on the proposed name change.

“They have the right to decide how to address themselves and the tribal government. This legislation could be a referendum,” stated Phelps.

The Navajo Nation Council voted 9-14 against Legislation No. 0395-16. The Council serves as the final authority for the bill.

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