FARMINGTON — The first day of the Navajo Nation Council's weeklong winter session surprised some Monday, as the council speaker, who had his critics, was re-elected and grievances were aired by the nation's president.

The Navajo Nation Council re-elected current Council Speaker Johnny Naize on Monday, beating out local Council Delegate LoRenzo Bates.

Naize's re-election was one of the first action items during the council's winter session this week, which began Monday and lasts through Friday at the Navajo Nation Council Chambers in Window Rock.

Naize's election was not considered a shoo-in by many Navajo Nation officials.

"There were some people who thought he (Naize) might not get re-elected," said Erny Zah, spokesman for the Office of the President of the Navajo Nation. "Some people weren't pleased with his performance."

Naize is a former council delegate from eastern Arizona. He first was elected as speaker when the council was trimmed from 88 members to 24 members.

He is the only speaker who so far has presided over the council in its current form.

"His presence is not as commanding," Zah said, noting that some of the delegates still are getting used to his less assertive style of leadership.

The speaker represents the council, and oversees all legislative council and committee meetings.

"I want us to have a strong, positive attitude," Naize said in his candidacy speech.

Five candidates were nominated to run for Speaker, including Naize and Bates.


Advertisement

Naize and Bates received the highest number of votes and then went head-to-head in a run-off election.

Naize, who has served as the council speaker for the past two years, won by two votes with 13 of 24. The other 11 votes went to Bates, who represents the T'iistoh Sikaad, Nenahnezad, Upper Fruitland, Tse' Daa' Kaan, Newcomb, and San Juan Chapters.

Naize's election was followed by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly's State of the Nation Address, which was less of a statement and more of a response to numerous grievances held by delegates throughout the reservation.

Shelly went through a list of complaints, ranging from funding issues to employment concerns. He also responded to several claims that were not to his liking. He claimed that one person had written that he was a "liar." Shortly thereafter Shelly had an on-and-off dispute with Council Delegate Katherine Benally, who told the president to not let the conversation get sexist.

The winter session will continue through Friday and can be watched live at the Navajo Nation Council's UStream channel at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/navajo-nation-council