Navajo Nation Constitutional Feasibility and Government Reform Project

Diné Policy Institute

This paper will review three important elements related to the constitutional feasibility and government reform of the Navajo Nation. The first section will outline the foundational principles related to constitutionalism and ask whether constitionalism and the nation-state are appropriate functions for the Navajo Nation to pursue, given its historical norms, values, principles, and given the passage of the Foundational Laws.

The second section will specifically look at historic notions of governance and power and how that relates to the doctrine of the separation of powers in the Navajo Nation. The section describes how the separation of powers currently enshrined in the Navajo Nation Code is different from the actual practice of the separation of political powers. It suggests that the compartmentalization of powers into agencies will actually hinder the interests of the people, and will be less culturally valid.

The third section is a treatise on the practice of judicial review in the Navajo Nation and suggests that it paramount to government reform. The de facto separation of powers within judicial review is highly respected.

The last section details recommendations for government reform.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Yazzie, Robert, Moroni Benally, Andrew Curley, Nikke Alex, James Singer, & Amber Crotty. "Navajo Nation Constitutional Feasibility and Government Reform Project." Diné Policy Institute. Diné College. Tsaile, Arizona. September 2, 2008. Paper. (, accessed May 30, 2024) 

Related Resources


In this highlight from the presentation "Key Things a Constitution Should Address: 'How Do We Make Law?'," NNI's Miriam Jorgensen explains how a growing number of Native nations are creating space for court-made law and judicial review of legislative and executive actions in their redesigned…

Tribes across the country are re-examining their constitutions

Erma Vizenor is not exactly a revolutionary. But like America’s founders, she’s on a mission to ratify a new constitution in her homeland – the White Earth tribal nation. Most Americans don’t realize that tribes have their own constitutions, which set down rules for everything from tribal…

Report on Best Practices in Developing Effective Processes of American Indian Constitutional Reform

The Executive Session on American Indian Constitutional Reform is a national working group of constitutional reformers from 12 American Indian nations and leading academics. The Executive Session meets twice a year to rethink strategies for strengthening tribal constitutions and constitution-making…