Navajo Nation Presidential Candidate Allowed To Stay In Race

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Something momentous happened just after midnight last night in the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation Council, with a tie-breaking vote, removed the requirement that presidential candidates be fluent in the Navajo language.

The vote came after weeks of controversy and debate, sparked when one of the leading presidential candidates, Chris Deschene, refused to demonstrate whether he was fluent in the Navajo language. Earlier this week, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court upheld a controversial lower court ruling that barred him from the ballot on that basis.

"We have passionate people on both sides. We have those who do speak the Navajo language and they are very upset," Candace Begody, editor of the reservation's only newspaper, the Navajo Times, told Here & Now's Robin Young.

Many young people are in support Deschene and excited about the reversal, but Begody says that "there are a lot of Navajos, older generations, who don’t believe that the Navajo language is going to survive in the next 10, 15, 20 years."

Despite the concern, the newspaper editor believes that Navajo "is one of the languages that is still thriving even though a lot of people do not speak Navajo," but the divide over the language requirement, and the reaction to last night's vote shows that the battle is not yet over.


  • Candace Begody, editor of the Navajo Times, "the newspaper of the Navajo people." The paper tweets @navajotimes.

This segment aired on October 24, 2014.


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