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Navajo President Defends Tribal Sovereignty During Native Nations Legislative Day

Navajo Nation

Last week, leaders from nearly two dozen Arizona tribes gathered at the state capital for the annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day. Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye told state House representatives that he feels tribal sovereignty is threatened. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports. 

Begaye told lawmakers he wants to dispel stereotypes that the Navajo Nation is “third world.”

“Make no mistake about the fact that we are a nation. And we are a proud nation and we are not a program of the federal government,” Begaye said.

Begaye criticized a lawsuit that aims to dismantle parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. The Goldwater Institute is suing the federal government to remove a requirement of the federal law that gives Native American foster children preferential placement with Native American families.

“Keep our children with our people. Let us take care of our own children; and ICWA, let me tell you, is under attack. And the attack of ICWA is an attack on the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation, but also all the other tribes,” Begaye said.

State lawmakers haven’t announced a plan for addressing the tribe’s concerns. But Navajo Nation officials will meet with legislators throughout the 2016 session to continue discussions.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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