Guided by the mountains: Exploring the efficacy of traditional and contemporary Dine governance


This research looks at Diné governance with an eye towards forecasting reform. Traditional governance is not yet a foundation for future changes to current governance with little justification for the omission. The following research questions will be answered: What do traditional Diné institutions of governance offer to our understanding of the contemporary challenges faced by the Navajo Nation today and tomorrow?

The research is part history, and part political science while pioneering applications of cutting edge research methods. Primary and secondary research will detail where Navajo Nation has been. Diné history is explored via creation stories, the Naachid systems, the 1920's business councils, the Navajo Tribal Council to the current Navajo Nation Council. Unclear aspects of Diné history are illuminated when possible by relying on oral accounts from Diné governance philosophers. Contemporary Diné governance analysis pinpoints what is missing in governance today. Analysis also questions whether looking to the past alone will help make governance work better tomorrow. Sometimes adopting traditional Diné governance institutions is not feasible, not wanted, or not possible. New methodological territory offers insight when the past and the future do not work well together.

The concept building method is utilized as a way of mitigating the loss that occurs when English words fail to capture the essence of Diné Bizaad or Navajo language. Concepts organic to Navajo culture such as Naachid, Naat'áanii, War Naat'áanii, Peace Naat'áanii, etc, are turned to for assistance in dealing with contemporary issues. Navajo concepts are represented in three-level-view depictions. Three-level-view expressions require that concepts be observed on three-levels. Level one is the name. Under the name level are the set of necessary and sufficient conditions which must be present or you do not have an actual concept. Under each of the conditions are the data/observations which must be present in order to verify that the condition is present. Concept building displays where Navajo Nation has been in order to better understand where Navajo Nation needs to go. The visual presentation of traditional concepts of Diné governance makes them more understandable. Interestingly, when the same concept building method is applied to post 1923 Diné governance, the true motives of the United States (here after U.S.) become painfully clear. As a result, a clearer path is presented toward incorporating chapter house government into national government. Developing contemporary concepts of Navajo governance based on traditional teachings equips us to deal with contemporary issues.



Michael Lerma


Manley Begay






AAT 3433080
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences