About the Navajo Nation

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About the Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation is the largest land-based tribe of the 567 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States. The Navajo government is composed of an executive, legislative and judicial branch; the capitol is in Window Rock, Arizona.

The president and the vice president are elected at large by Navajo citizens. They lead the executive branch and oversee 19 departments and divisions that provide services to the Nation’s citizens. The Office of the President and Vice President is the head of state for government-to-government relations and consultation, and it represents the Navajo Nation nationally and internationally.

The Navajo Nation Council, a unicameral body of 24 council members, composes the legislative branch. Members of the Council elect a speaker, who leads the lawmaking body. Each council member serves a 4-year term. Navajo lawmakers enact the laws of the Navajo Nation, which is codified under the Navajo Nation Code.

The Judicial Branch is a two-level or tier court system - the Navajo Nation Supreme Court and district trial courts. The Navajo Nation Supreme Court is the highest judicial body of the Navajo Nation. It is composed of three members: the chief justice and two associate justices. The judicial branch also has an alternative dispute resolution guided by Navajo traditional concepts called Navajo Peacemaking.

The Navajo Nation was originally established under the Treaty of 1868 with the United States government. U.S. Presidential executive orders and Congressional action expanded the land base to its current size, which is about 27,000 square miles and extends into the states of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

The Nation is larger than 10 of the 50 states in America and approximately the size of West Virginia. As of 2010, the Navajo Nation has over 330,000 citizens, of which 173,667 live on the reservation. 

History and Culture

Homeland 

Navajos had long settled the area around the Four Corners area of the Colorado Plateau. Today, Navajo land extends from the northeast region of Arizona into Utah and New Mexico. 

From a traditional perspective, Navajos consider their homeland as the area between the four sacred mountains, which are located in the four cardinal directions. Mount Blanca (Sisnaajini) stand in the east. Mount Taylor (Tsoodził) stand in the south. The San Francisco Peaks (Doko’o’osliid) stand in the west. Mount Hesperus (Dibé Nitsaa) stand in the north. The origin and sacredness of these mountains is told in the Navajo creation story. 

Language

The Navajos have their own language. It is called Diné Bizaad and is a gift from and a means to communicate with the Holy People.

Navajos were recruited in World War II for the purpose of communicating coded information in the Navajo language. This code was never broken during the war. Navajo Code Talkers were recognized for their service through acts of Congress and the president of the United States. 

K’e Relationships 

The Navajo people consider their relationship (K’e) as being at the heart of their culture. Navajos relate and express their relationship to one another through their clanship system. Navajos inherit their mother’s clan; however they also express their father, maternal grandfather and paternal grandfather’s clan for the purpose of determining their relationship.

Traditional Homes

The traditional homes of the Navajo are a forked cone-like structure or a dome-like structure called a hooghan. Although many Navajos today have the western rectangular homes, most Navajos retain a family hooghan for ceremonies. The entrance to all traditional homes face the east, a symbolic greeting for the sacred Holy People who rise from the east before the break of every dawn.

About the Navajo Nation Washington Office

Founded in 1984 and located on Capitol Hill, the Navajo Nation Washington Office serves as the Navajo Nation’s advocate with Congress, the White House and federal agencies. The NNWO monitors and analyzes congressional legislation, disseminates congressional and federal agencies’ information, develops strategies and decisions concerning national policies and budgets that affect the Navajo Nation.

Map of the Navajo Nation