Navajo Nation Council backs proposal to repeal some COVID-19 restrictions

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Council has backed a proposal to repeal restrictions placed on roads, businesses, schools and chapter governments since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Delegates passed legislation last week that called for returning to in-person learning at schools, reopening all tribal enterprises and businesses owned by tribal members, and allowing travel by tourists and visitors on tribally managed roads.

The council's action comes after an earlier attempt to reopen roads to tourists and visitors was vetoed by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, who cited the inability to gather health information from tourists visiting the tribe's parks and recreation areas.

A press release from the Office of the Speaker states that repealing the closure of roads would "aid local businesses suffering from the lack of commerce."

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"If we want self-reliance, economic development and increased employment – especially for our young people – then let's open up our Navajo businesses. Tour season is already half over and we're still preventing our Diné businesses from operating again. Our students are waiting to get back to their summer jobs," Delegate Paul Begay said.

Chapter governments could revise quorum requirements for meetings and reinstate other activities as allowed under public health emergency orders.

The speaker's office press release states that some delegates were concerned about the health and safety of chapter members and remarked that chapter buildings might not be ready to reopen to the public.

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Vehicles move on U.S. Highway 491 in the north side of Shiprock during the weekend lockdown on April 25, 2020. The Navajo Nation Council passed a bill to repeal certain restrictions put in place for COVID-19.

"I think it's time for us to get back to business – within reason – to restart our economy and to support more democratic participation. There is a perception among many people that the chapters are closed, and they are denied access from participating in their local chapter governments," said Delegate Carl Slater, who sponsored the bill.

Although the tribe has seen single-digit new cases in recent weeks, health officials remain concerned about variants of COVID-19.

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The Navajo Department of Health reported on June 25 the first case of the Delta variant identified in the northern part of the tribal land.

Delegates voted 23 in favor and zero opposed at the special session on June 25.

According to the speaker's office, the resolution was submitted on June 28 to the president's office. Nez has 10 calendar days to sign or veto the document.

The president acknowledged that his office received the resolution when speaking at virtual town hall on June 30.

"The team is assessing that legislation right now and we are looking at that bill, just to let you know, but at the same time we got to keep our Navajo people safe," Nez said adding the tribe still requires wearing face masks, including at businesses.

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

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