Listening session focuses on government reform

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Ramona Begay, a commissioner on the Commission on Navajo Government Development, introduces herself during the listening session on Wednesday at the Shiprock Chapter house.

SHIPROCK — Community members from the Northern Agency attended a listening session to discuss ideas for Navajo government reform on Wednesday at the chapter house here.

The session was sponsored by the Office of Navajo Government Development and the Commission on Navajo Government Development.

Edward Dee, executive director for the government development office, said government reform has garnered interest due to new leadership in Window Rock.

"It is our intent – the staff and the commission – that we hold listening sessions across Navajo to capture your thinking, your wishes, your ideas and recommendations," Dee said.

Public comments were collected during the listening session about Navajo government reform on Wednesday at the Shiprock Chapter house.

By providing such insight to tribal leaders, they will know where government reform stands among the people, he added.

To encourage discussion, ideas and topics were posted in the front of the room.

Shiprock resident Barbara Morgan reviewed the material, including one that listed a proposal for a Navajo constitution, then suggested a Navajo Bill of Rights be developed.

"Because it encompasses a lot of things that affect us," Morgan said about the document's inclusion.

Other comments focused on setting firm boundaries for chapters, revising procedures for livestock and grazing permits and transitioning division director positions from appointed to permanent service.

Any verbal or written comments made during the session were recorded by staff, Dee said.

He added the remarks will be complied and used in a report about government reform to the Navajo Nation Council and to the tribal president's office.

Edward Dee, director of the Office of Navajo Government Development, explains the purpose of the listening session on Navajo government reform on Wednesday at the Shiprock Chapter house.

The report is scheduled for release in April. It will also contain results from more than 400 surveys the office collected at the Northern Navajo Nation and Western Navajo fairs and from the presidential debates held last year at Navajo Technical University, Arizona State University and Diné College.

Also under development is a proposal to the tribal council to create a policy on sustainability, Dee said.

Council Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton, who represents the Shiprock Chapter, was among those who attended the session.

She said the discussion provided an opportunity for community members to hear from the government development commission and for community members to provide their thoughts and feedback about government reform.

From left, Navajo Government Development Commissioners Rachel Felix, Henry Fowler and Ramona Begay listen to comments about the structure of the tribal government on Wednesday at the Shiprock Chapter House.

"I'm hoping we can work together to try to push through some of the much-needed change that needs to happen to better our nation, but also to make things better for our future," Charles-Newton said.

This was the fourth listening session, which was attended by Ramona Begay, Rachel Felix and Henry Fowler, all members of the government development commission.

"I believe that government should come from the people," Felix said.

The next session will be Feb. 28 at the Fort Defiance Chapter house. Followed by March 4 at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona and March 5 at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint.

Each session will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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