Holiday to honor Navajo leaders passes

Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred, as seen during a council session in 2016.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – A Navajo lawmaker has successfully championed a bill to establish a tribal holiday to honor Navajo leaders.

The Navajo Nation Council voted 14-6 Thursday to pass legislation to declare the third Friday in March a tribal holiday to celebrate leaders.

Delegate Davis Filfred, who sponsored the bill, told the council there were two changes to the bill by the Naa’bik’íyáti’ Committee. Under the committee’s amendments, it would not be a paid tribal holiday, and it would be known as Navajo Nation Naat’áanii Day rather than Navajo Nation Presidents Day. In the Navajo language, “naat’áanii” refers to someone who holds a position of leadership, according to the Navajo Word of the Day website.

With the changes, the holiday no longer only celebrates tribal chairmen and presidents, Filfred said. Rather, it honors the service of all Navajo leaders from the top offices to the local level, including chapter and grazing officials, and members of school and land boards.

The changes were passed on April 13 by the Naa’bik’íyáti’ Committee, whose membership consists of the 24 delegates, during a meeting at Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort in Arizona.

There was no discussion about the bill by lawmakers.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr. talks about a bill under consideration by the tribal council during the spring session on Thursday in Window Rock, Ariz.

Delegates Kee Allen Begay Jr., Nelson BeGaye, Nathaniel Brown, Jonathan Perry, Raymond Smith Jr. and Leonard Tsosie opposed the legislation.

The bill does not need review or consideration by Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye for its establishment, according to the legislative branch.

There was also no discussion when the council voted 17-0 in favor of providing $100,000 in supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to the Albuquerque Indian Center. In recent months, the center has been facing funding shortages to provide community and social services to low-income and homeless Native Americans in the city.

In other business, with last week’s bankruptcy filing by the Peabody Energy Corp., which operates the Kayenta Mine in Arizona, personnel from the corporation were invited to make a report to the council.

A large part of the tribe’s annual budget relies on coal, gas and oil revenues.

During the session on Wednesday, Speaker LoRenzo Bates reminded delegates that Peabody’s report was scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday. At 2:18 p.m. Thursday, Bates called for a recess in order for delegates to meet in executive session with Peabody personnel.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd comments on legislation that was added to the tribal council’s spring session agenda on Thursday in Window Rock, Ariz.

In response, Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty asked the council to remain in session and finish addressing the remaining bills on the agenda, then hear Peabody’s report after adjournment.

“We have the corporation here by invitation. We’re in council session, and the next item on the agenda should be the next item that we address,” Crotty said.

Bates said the council directed that the report be scheduled for 2 p.m., and there was no objection to setting that time to meet with corporation officials.

After listening to that explanation, Crotty motioned to have delegates vote on a recess. Thirteen delegates voted in favor of remaining in session, and eight voted for the recess in order to conduct the executive session.

As of Thursday night, Peabody personnel continued to wait to meet with the council.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.