24th Navajo Nation Council
Béésh bąąh dah siʼání
Coat of arms or logo
Seth Damon
Seats24 Delegates
Last election
November 6, 2018
Next election
November 6, 2022
Meeting place
Navajo Nation Council Chambers 6809.jpg
Navajo Nation Council Chamber

The Navajo Nation Council (Navajo: Béésh bąąh dah siʼání) is the legislative branch of the Navajo Nation government. The council meets four times per year, with additional special sessions, at the Navajo Nation Council Chamber, which is in Window Rock, Arizona.

The council is composed of 24 district delegates, or councilors, chosen by direct election, who represent 110 municipal chapters within the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Delegates must be members of the Navajo Nation and be at least twenty-five years of age. Delegate offices are at the Navajo Nation governmental campus in Window Rock.

The council selects a speaker, chosen from among all delegates, to preside over the day-to-day functions of the council for a two-year term.

Power and jurisdiction

As codified in Section 101 of the Navajo Nation Code: (2 N.N.C. § 101(A)) The Legislative Branch shall consist of the Navajo Nation Council and any entity established under the Navajo Nation Council. (2 N.N.C § 101(B)) The Legislative Branch shall not be amended unless approved by majority of all registered Navajo voters through a referendum.[1]

Navajo Nation Council Chamber, a National Historic Landmark

Navajo legislative overview

(2 N.N.C. § 102 (B-G)) The Navajo Nation Council reserves all powers not delegated and supervises those that are delegated; has the power to discipline and regulate the conduct of its members; has the authority to promulgate rules, regulations, and procedures for the conduct of its meetings and of its committees; confirms the appointments of all division directors upon recommendation from the appropriate oversight committee; and shall establish standing committees and delegate such authority to such committees as it deems necessary and proper.[2][3]

Line of succession

§1006 of the Navajo Code instructs that should vacancy occur in the Office of President and Vice President, the Speaker shall serve as President of the Navajo Nation until a special election is held. The Code further states that the Speaker shall then act concurrently as Speaker and President, and that the speakership shall not be considered vacated.[4]

24th Council delegates

On January 16, 2019, the delegates to the 24th Navajo Nation Council took the oath of office and elected Seth Damon as Speaker.[5]

Delegate[6] Chapter[6]
Elmer Begay Dilcon, Indian Wells, Teesto, Whitecone, Greasewood Springs
Kee Allen Begay, Jr. Tachee/Blue Gap, Many Farms, Nazlini, Tselani/Cottonwood, Low Mountain
Paul Begay Coppermine, K'aii'to, LeChee, Tonalea/Red Lake, Bodaway/Gap
Nathaniel Brown Chilchinbeto, Dennehotso, Kayenta
Eugenia Charles-Newton Shiprock
Amber Kanazbah Crotty Cove, Toadlena/Two Grey Hills, Red Valley Tse'alnaozt'i'i', Sheepsprings, Beclabito, Gadiiahi/To'Koi
Seth Damon Baahaali, Chi Chil Tah, Manuelito, Red Rock, Rock Springs, Tsayatoh
Herman Daniels, Jr. Tsah Bii Kin, Navajo Mountain, Shonto, Oljato
Mark Freeland Becenti, Lake Valley, Nahodishgish, Standing Rock, Whiterock, Huerfano, Nageezi, Crownpoint
Pernell Halona Coyote Canyon, Mexican Springs, Naschitti, Tohatchi, Bahastl'a'a'
Jamie Henio Alamo, Ramah, Tohajiilee
Vince R. James Jeddito, Cornfields, Ganado, Kinlichee, Steamboat
Rickie Nez T'iistoh Sikaad, Nenahnezad, Upper Fruitland, Tse' Daa' Kaan, Newcomb, San Juan
Carl Slater Lukachukai, Round Rock, Tsaile/Wheatfields, Tse Ch'izhi/Rough Rock, Rock Point
Raymond Smith, Jr. Klagetoh, Wide Ruins, Houck, Lupton, Nahata Dziil
Wilson Stewart, Jr. Crystal, Fort Defiance, Red Lake, Sawmill
Charlaine Tso Mexican Water, To'likan, Teesnospos, Aneth, Red Mesa
Daniel Tso Littlewater, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, Whitehorse Lake, Baca/Brewitt, Casamero Lake, Ojo Encino, Counselor
Eugene Tso Chinle
Otto Tso To' Nanees Dizi
Thomas Walker, Jr. Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Birdsprings, Leupp, Tolani Lake
Edison Wauneka Oaksprings, St. Michaels
Edmund Yazzie Churchrock, Iyanbito, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, Smith Lake, Thoreau
Jimmy Yellowhair Hard Rock, Forest Lake, Pinon, Black Mesa, Whippoorwill
Navajo Council
Navajo Council

24th Navajo Nation Council committees and subcommittees as listed at the Council website.[7]

Standing committees




The Diné (Navajo) created the ceremonial gatherings called Naachʼid which met every 2 to 4 years, or on an emergency basis as needed.

The traditional Navajo government was organized around the principles of Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí dóó Hashkééjí, the nurturing and protecting aspects of governance. Each Navajo clan chose two representatives to attend these assemblies, with the purpose of protecting and nurturing the Diné. An individual selected to participate in that council was called naalchʼid. The Hashkééjí Naatʼááh, translated as war chief, protected the people from any harm as they moved away from the principles of Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí.

The Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí Naatʼááh, or peace chief, nurtured each individual, assisting the people to live in accordance with the principles of kʼé (peace and friendship) and to maintain relationships with all creation.[8][9][10]

1922 to the 15th council

For the history of the Government, see Navajo Nation.

Former Navajo Council delegate Katherine Benally [left] speaking to her constituency after the defeat of the proposed Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act.
Former Navajo Council delegate Katherine Benally [left] speaking to her constituency after the defeat of the proposed Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act.

The Navajo Business Council was created in 1922 by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in order to certify mineral leases on the Navajo reservation. At its first meeting, the Council acquiesced to U.S. pressure to grant oil companies use of the land. In return, the Navajo Nation was promised more land that could be used for subsistence farming and sheep grazing. This first council was headed by Henry Chee Dodge and consisted of one delegate elected from each of the five agencies, along with one alternate delegate.

After refusing to adopt Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier's Indian Reorganization Act in 1934, the Navajo Tribal Council reformed in 1937. The Navajo voters would ultimately reject three attempts at establishing a constitutional government over disagreement of lasting legal language.

Until 1984, the Navajo Tribal Council and Navajo Nation had been supported by funding from the wealth of natural resources on the reservation. In 1984, however, the council established the Permanent Trust Fund, into which 12% of all revenue each year would be deposited. Funds would first become available in 2004.

16th council (1987–1990)

The name Navajo Nation Council (sometimes called the Navajo Nation Tribal Council) came into use around the middle of 1989. The name change occurred with the Title II Amendments of 1989 which established the three-branch government system used at Window Rock today. This created a clear delineation of executive and legislative powers, vested leadership of the executive branch in the President and Vice President, and created the offices of Speaker of the Council and Speaker Pro Tem.[11]

17th council (1991–1994)

The 17th council was seated in 1991.

18th council (1995–1998)

The 18th council was seated in January 1995.

19th council (1999–2002)

The 19th council was seated in January 1999.

In 2001, the council approved a service agreement with OnSat, a Utah-based Internet provider. OnSat was to receive $1.9 million in the first year of contract to provide the 110 chapters with satellite bandwidth.[12]

20th council (2003–2006)

The 20th council was seated in January 2003. Lawrence T. Morgan was elected Speaker of the Council.


In 2005, Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan was elected for his second term as Speaker of the Council.

21st council (2007–2010)

The 21st council was seated in January 2007. Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan was elected for a third term after winning a run-off election against Delegate Harold Wauneka of Fort Defiance.


President announces election to reduce council to 24

On April 29, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. proposed reducing the Navajo Council from 88 members to 24 members. The election would change the dynamics of the council in 2011.[17]


In January 2009, Speaker Morgan was reelected speaker, to a fourth term. The election made him the first speaker to serve eight years in that capacity in the Council's modern history. President Shirley addressed the Council in the annual State of the Navajo Nation address on January 24, 2009. Shirley spoke of his conviction of the need to develop a new governing document for the Navajo Nation. Shirley had campaigned to return government to the Diné by government reform.


At the meeting of the council on January 13, 2010, Council Delegate Jonnathan Nez announced changes to Title 22 of the Navajo Nation Code that would take place in the wake of the majority of the tribe's membership voting to reduce the size of the council to 24 members.[23] In a decision on May 28, 2010, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court ordered immediate implementation of a redistricting plan.

22nd council (2011–2014)

24 Votes

On January 11, 2011, the new, smaller 24-member council was seated, and the restructuring of the legislative branch began. On January 24, 2011, Delegate Johnny Naize (Blue Gap-Tachee/Cottonwood-Tselani/Low Mountain/Many Farms/Nazlini) was selected as speaker.[28]

In May 2011, President Ben Shelly signed council resolution CAP-10-11, sent to him by the council, amending Title II of the Navajo Code. Among the changes in the law was the reorganization of existing standing committees to match the 24 vote membership.[3]


In January 2013, the council reelected Speaker Naize to a second term.

23rd council (2015–2018)

The newly elected 23rd Navajo Nation Council was inaugurated on January 13, 2015, in Window Rock, Arizona. Following the inauguration, delegates convened in special session to select a speaker pro tem to serve in that capacity until a speaker was selected by the council to serve a two-year term. Council delegate Kee Allen Begay, Jr. (Low Mountain, Many Farms, Nazlini, Tachee/Blue Gap, Tselani/Cottonwood) was elected speaker pro tem by a coin toss after he and former Speaker Pro Tem LoRenzo Bates each received 12 votes. Begay served as speaker pro tem until the start of the winter session on January 26, 2015, after which former Speaker Pro Tem LoRenzo Bates won the speakership, after a runoff election with Alton Joe Shepherd (Jeddito, Cornfields, Ganado, Kinlichee, Steamboat) where each received 12 votes, after which Shepard withdrew his candidacy, "for the council to unite and work together".[citation needed]

24th council (2019–)

On January 15, 2019, the 24th Navajo Nation Council took their oath of office at noon during the 2019 Navajo Nation Inauguration at the Bee Holdzil Fighting Scouts Events Center in Fort Defiance, Ariz. Following the inaugural event, the 24-member council convened for a special session to consider Legislation No. 0001-19 to select a speaker pro tem. Through a simple majority vote by Council members, Council Delegate Seth Damon (Bááháálí, Chichiltah, Manuelito, Tsé Lichíí’, Rock Springs, Tsayatoh) was selected as speaker pro tem.[5] On January 28, 2019, opening day of the 2019 Winter Council Session Speaker Pro Tem Seth Damon was voted in as Speaker of the 24th Navajo Nation Council.

In July 2019, Delegate Nelson BeGaye resigned due to health reasons.[41] Following a special election, Carl Roessel Slater was elected to the seat.[42]

Speakers of the Navajo Nation Council

Name Chapter Took office Left office
Nelson Gorman Jr. Chinle 1995 1997
Kelsey A. Begaye Kaibito 1997 1999
Edward T. Begay Church Rock 1999 2003
Lawrence T. Morgan Pinedale 2003 2011
Johnny Naize   2011 September 2014[a]
LoRenzo Bates   2014 2015
Kee Allen Begay Jr.   January 15, 2015 January 26, 2015
Lorenzo Bates   January 26, 2015 January 28, 2019
Seth Damon   January 28, 2019 Present
  1. ^ resigned[43]

Notable delegates

Council Delegate Kenneth Maryboy informing his supports of Peter Macdonald's endorsement (2010)
Council Delegate Kenneth Maryboy informing his supports of Peter Macdonald's endorsement (2010)

See also


  1. ^ "Navajo Nation Code, Annotated: Titles 1–5" (PDF). Navajo Nation Council. 2010. p. 83. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  2. ^ Navajo Nation Code 2010, pp. 83–4.
  3. ^ a b "CAP-10-11: Resolution of the Navajo Nation Council" (PDF). Navajo Nation Council. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 26, 2011. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  4. ^ Navajo Nation Code 2010, pp. 202–3.
  5. ^ a b Holgate, Jolene (January 16, 2019). "24th Navajo Nation Council takes office and elects Council Delegate Seth Damon as Speaker Pro Tem" (PDF) (Press release). 24th Navajo Nation Council: Office of the Speaker. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Council Delegates". 24th Navajo Nation Council. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  7. ^ "24th Navajo Nation Council Sub-Committees and Standing Committees" (PDF). Navajo Nation Council. February 9, 2021. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  8. ^ "DPI Study Report". p. 25.[dead link]
  9. ^ Wilkins, David E. (1999). The Navajo Political Experience. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. pp. 70–71. ISBN 978-1442221444.
  10. ^ For the spelling of Navajo terms: Young, Robert W; Morgan, Sr., William (1987). The Navajo Language: A Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0826310149.
  11. ^ David E. Wilkins, "The Navajo Political Experience", 2003, Rowman & LIttlefield Publishers, Inc., Pages 92–95.
  12. ^ a b "Marley Shebala's Notebook". dineresourcesandinfocenter.org. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  13. ^ Fonseca, Felicia (December 30, 2009). "Special prosecutor to probe allegations of illegal behavior of some Navajo Nation employees". The Gaea Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  14. ^ "Man behind failed BCDS deal faces tax evasion charges". Navajo Times. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  15. ^ "The Navajo Times Online". Navajo Times. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Indian Country". Indian Country News. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  17. ^ Hardeen, George (April 29, 2008). "Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr., launches government reform initiative, submits language to reduce Council to 24 members, obtain line item veto" (PDF). The Navajo Nation (Press release). Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  18. ^ "Navajo lawmakers put tribal president on leave". East Valley Tribune. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  19. ^ Hardeen, George (October 27, 2009). "Navajo President 'disappointed' with council action". Native American Times. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  20. ^ Capriccioso, Rob (October 29, 2009). "Navajo Nation suspends president". Indian Country Today Media Network. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  21. ^ Fonseca, Felicia (December 31, 2009). "Navajo AG Calls for Special Prosecutor". KRQE. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 19, 2012.
  22. ^ Fonseca, Felicia (December 2009). "Navajos vote to reduce size of Tribal Council to 24". Indian Country News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  23. ^ "Speaker Pro Tem Nez encourages chapters to bring forward priorities, while Council discusses committee restructuring" (PDF) (Press release). Navajo Nation. January 13, 2010. Archived from the original on November 13, 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2015.((cite press release)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  24. ^ Fonseca, Felicia (October 21, 2010). "Navajo Tribal Vice President Ben Shelly charged in slush fund investigation". Deseret News. Associated Press. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  25. ^ "Charges filed in probe of Navajo slush funds". The Arizona Republic. Associated Press. October 20, 2010. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  26. ^ Shebala, Marley (November 11, 2010). "Council says AG, deputy must go". Navajo Times. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  27. ^ Shebala, Marley (January 6, 2011). "Delegates dump bills to fire AG, deputy". Navajo Times. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  28. ^ "22nd Navajo Nation Council Selects Johnny Naize as New Speaker". Indian Country Today. January 25, 2011. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
  29. ^ "A year and a day in prison, restitution for tax evasion". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  30. ^ Smith, Noel Lyn. "Former, current Navajo Nation Council members accused of misusing nearly $186K in discretionary funds". Farmington Daily Times. Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  31. ^ "Current and former Navajo Nation Council speakers plead not guilty to misusing discretionary funds". Farmington Daily Times. Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  32. ^ "Speaker Pro Tem LoRenzo Bates urges Council to move forward" (PDF) (Press release). 22nd Navajo Nation Council – Office of the Speaker. April 8, 2014. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  33. ^ Naize, Johnny (September 29, 2014). "Resignation Memo" (Press release). Office of the Speaker – Navajo Nation Legislative Branch. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  34. ^ Yurth, Cindy (November 14, 2014). "Many Farms grazing official claims Naize seat". Navajo Times. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  35. ^ Zah, Emy (October 19, 2014). "David L. Tom resigns his position as delegate on the Navajo Nation Council". The Daily Times. Farmington Daily Times. Archived from the original on December 11, 2014.
  36. ^ "Navajo Nation Council welcomes new delegate". Associated Press. The Washington Times. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  37. ^ Wyloge, Evan; Stephenson, Hank (October 23, 2014). "Navajo Nation Council passes emergency language requirement repeal". ''Arizona Capitol Times. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  38. ^ "Bill OK'd for special election for Navajo presidency; dates would be after court-set deadline". Daily Reporter. Associated Press. January 1, 2015. Archived from the original on January 5, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  39. ^ "Navajo president rejects language fluency bill". Navajo Post. Associated Press. January 5, 2015. Archived from the original on January 5, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  40. ^ "Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly to remain in office". Farmington Daily Times. Archived from the original on 30 July 2015. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  41. ^ Smith, Noel Lyn (July 15, 2019). "Long-serving delegate resisns from Navajo Nation Council". Farmington Daily Times.
  42. ^ Smith, Noel Lyn (September 25, 2019). "Special election decides open seat on Navajo Nation Council", Farmington Daily Times.
  43. ^ Smith, Noel Lyn (August 24, 2016). "Former Navajo officials sentenced in court". Farmington Daily Times.