Blog: Play-by-play of election controversy on Navajo Nation

Chris Deschene and his former running mate, Fannie Atcitty, campaigned on the Navajo Nation before he was removed from the ballot. Photo from Facebook

Voters of the Navajo Nation have yet to choose a president after Chris Deschene was disqualified for not being fluent in the Navajo language:
Oct. 9: Navajo Nation Council delegate Leonard Tsosie submits a bill to change the election code, allowing voters to determine whether or not the candidate they prefer is proficient enough in the language. Deschene’s requalification is contingent on the success of Tsosie’s legislation.

Many voters see the commotion as a maneuver by nepotistic insiders to reject fresh political leadership. At 43, Deschene is more than 20 years Shirley’s junior and was born off the reservation. He received a degree from the prestigious Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, served in the Marines, and holds law and engineering degrees. He is also the grandson of a Code Talker, one of the World War II soldiers who used indigenous language to subvert Japanese espionage. Deschene’s mother went to boarding school where the Navajo language was actively exterminated and she, like many Navajos of her generation, insisted her children speak only English to survive in an English-speaking world.

Oct. 28: Tsosie’s legislation to change the election code is halted when Navajo President Ben Shelly vetoes it.

Nov. 4: Voting Day on the reservation is rife with confusion and anger. Deschene technically has been disqualified and the election postponed, but his name is still on the ballot, along with Shirley’s. Navajo voters in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah vote in state elections and for other tribal positions, but are instructed not to vote for a presidential candidate. Rumors circulate about poll workers tearing up ballots after voters mistakenly vote for their president.

Get the Story:
Wyatt Orme: Should the president of the Navajo Nation speak Navajo? (High Country News 11/21)

Also Today:
Voter registration opens for Navajo Nation presidential special electio (The Farmington Daily Times 11/20)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Navajo Nation Council fails to override veto on language bill (11/14)
Navajo Nation Council to consider language requirement veto (11/13)
Navajo Nation schedules December 23 presidential election (11/10)
Navajo Nation candidate Russell Begaye names running mate (11/6)
Petition seeks removal of Navajo Nation presidential hopeful (11/4)
Andrew Curley: Election flap exposes troubles in Navajo Nation (11/3)
Navajo Nation postpones presidential vote as legal drama ends (11/3)
Chris Deschene still urging Navajo Nation voters to choose him (10/30)
Navajo Nation president vetoes bill to address language issue (10/29)
Navajo Nation election officials refuse to delay upcoming vote (10/28)
Navajo Nation candidate Chris Deschene won't halt campaign (10/24)
Navajo Nation's top court orders new ballots without candidate (10/23)
Christopher Chavis: Navajo court got it wrong in fluency case (10/22)
Navajo Nation presidential hopeful to be removed from ballot (10/22)
Navajo Nation court still mulling decision in presidential case (10/21)
Top Navajo Nation court holds hearing in presidential dispute (10/20)
Navajo presidential candidate Chris Deschene stays on ballot (10/14)
Navajo presidential candidate to dispute removal from ballot (10/10)
Navajo presidential candidate loses ruling over language ability (10/9)
Navajo Nation won't delay election despite presidential dispute (10/2)
Navajo presidential candidate in doubt over fluency in language (9/29)
Navajo Nation might postpone election due to legal challenge (9/25)
Navajo Nation court to hear language issue affecting candidate (9/24)
Appeal filed over Navajo language ability of presidential hopeful (9/17)
Navajo Nation presidential candidate a target over fluency issue (09/11)
Navajo voters oust incumbent president Ben Shelly in primary (08/27)