Navajo President Defends Tribal Sovereignty During Native Nations Legislative Day

Jan 28, 2016

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. 

From left: Ak-Chin Indian Community Chairman Louis Manuel, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community President Delbert Ray, Sr., during the 21st annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day.
Credit Navajo Nation

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.