Survey shows majority want larger Council


Eight years after the Navajo people voted to reduce the size of the Navajo Nation Council from 88 to 24 members, a lot of tribal members are apparently unhappy with the way things have turned out.

According to a survey released by the Office of Navajo Government Development, a majority of tribal members – 60 percent – would like to see the present number increased to either 44 or 48 members.

A total of 285 members of the tribe completed the survey between March 29 and April 20, 2016, and 30 percent said they wanted to see it increased to 44 members and another 30 percent said they wanted to see it increased to 40.

Only 18 percent – less than one out of five – wanted it to stay at the present 24 members, which is slightly more than the 17 percent that would like to see it go back to 88 members.
Three percent voted for a different number, probably 110, which would give each chapter its own Council delegate.

The survey was requested by the Naabik’iyati’ Committee, which wanted to get an idea of how effective the Council with its reduced size.

Council delegates back in 2008 and 2009 did everything they could to keep a referendum from happening but then-President Joe Shirley Jr. went to the Navajo people to get enough signatures to make it happen.

But not only tribal members were surveyed.

The government development office went to all five agency councils between March and September of 2016 and polled a total of 160 chapter officials, asking them the same questions and the responses could not have been more different.

The biggest percentage – 42 – wanted to keep the Council at 24 while 20 percent each wanted to increase it back to 88 members or to 48. Only 17 percent wanted to increase it to 44 members.

Back in 2009, almost every member of the Council supported keeping it at 88 members, in part because a reduction in the number would mean most would have to go head-to-head with other members of the Council to order to be re-elected.

They said at the time that if the Council was reduced, tribal members would not be happy because it would mean that each Council delegate would be representing three to six chapters and many chapters would feel they are being underserved by their delegate because he or she would be viewed as favoring their own chapter or the chapter that gave them the most support.

Speaker of the Council LoRenzo Bates said Wednesday that the decision to increase the number of delegates must be made by the Navajo people and not by the Council.

“It was the Navajo people who voted to reduce the Council and if they feel it is necessary for the number to be increased, it should be their decision,” he said.

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Categories: Politics

About Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.