“Navajos have voted to loosen language requirements for their top leaders, eliminating the need for them to be fluent in Navajo and giving voters more discretion in who can hold elected office.” Native Times
Excerpt: Navajo Nation loosens language requirements for top leaders
“The passage of the referendum also raises the possibility that the Navajo Nation could elect a non-Navajo-speaking president and vice president in the future, starting with the 2018 election. Tuesday’s vote is a victory for Navajos who rallied around a presidential candidate who was disqualified from the race last year for refusing to have his language skills tested.
It tells me that a majority of the Navajo people would like to see youth back at the leadership table,” said tribal lawmaker Leonard Tsosie, who sponsored the language referendum and joined a crowd gathered in Window Rock where the results were broadcast. It shows the Navajo democracy at work.
Others argued that not having a president speak fluent Navajo diminishes the language that is a defining part of the tribe’s culture and is recognized worldwide as the basis for a code that helped the U.S. win World War II. More people speak Navajo than any other single American Indian language, but it’s not widespread among the younger generation. Navajo President Russell Begaye also advocated for keeping the fluency requirement intact.
The Navajo Nation Council called for the referendum months after Chris Deschene was dropped from the presidential race over a question of Navajo language fluency. The issue overshadowed the election that was delayed for months by court challenges, first filed against Deschene.”
“I grew up speaking Navajo but it’s not easy to learn and the fluency requirement kept younger Navajos out of the upper level of politics.
It discourages Navajos who are educated and live off the reservation to return and help their people,” ~ Terry Teller, of Lukachukai~
“ Navajos have fought hard to maintain their language through U.S. government efforts to assimilate them into the American society and didn’t want to see those struggles dismissed. ~Bernadette Todacheene, Shiprock, New Mexico~