The Navajo Nation Local Governance Act of 1998
While Western forms of government have a top-down approach, traditional Navajo governance is founded on a consensus-based decision-making process of smaller governmental structures. In the early 1990s, the Commission on Navajo Government Development recognized the need to create a structure that reflected this traditional form of governance and began working on what is now known as the Local Governance Act of 1998 (LGA). The Navajo Nation Council passed the LGA, which created a process for local Chapters to improve their performance and increase citizen involvement. It enables Chapters to improve the way they conduct meetings, develop different forms of government, develop a community-based land use plan, and involve the community in creating ordinances and addressing community priorities. While the creation of a diversified economy is an ongoing challenge for tribal policy makers, the LGA is the best tool Chapters can utilize in creating development in their own communities.
The authorities established through the LGA have created much success for Chapters throughout the Navajo Nation. The LGA was formulated based on numerous recommendations from the Navajo public, three branch chiefs, an inter-branch task force, elected officials, standing committees, tribal employees, and others interested in a more effective Navajo government. In addition, LGA provides major improvements to Chapter government by recognizing local governmental authority over local matters and requiring local officials and administrators to govern with responsibility and accountability by adhering to the principles of checks and balances and the separation of powers. The LGA separates and identifies the responsibilities of Chapter officials, administrators and the citizens in the Chapter government. The Chapter members are the policymakers and constitute the local legislatures. Chapter officials guide and carry out the policy decisions of the Chapter membership. Chapter administrators carry out the administrative duties and responsibilities of the Chapter.
Chapters can authorize by resolution, the issuance of home, business and other site leases (subject to local rules and regulations); acquire, sell, or lease personal property of the Chapter; and enter into agreements with other Chapters. Chapters can also enter into intergovernmental agreements with state, federal, county, Navajo Nation, and other governmental entities to administer service delivery functions, subject to approval by the Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the Navajo Nation Council. Other authorizations include the ability to contract / subcontract with the Navajo Nation; appropriate and reallocate funds; retain legal counsel; and establish a peacemaking system or administrative procedures for resolving disputes.
Chapter governmental authorities, by local ordinance include adoption of alternative forms of Chapter governance or municipal forms of government or subunits; levying local taxes, pursuant to a local tax code, and amending land use plans. Other authorities by Chapter ordinances include acquiring property by eminent domain, acquiring and administering capital improvement project funds, issuing community bonds, enacting zoning and regulatory ordinances. All authorities must be consistent with Navajo law.
Upon the enactment of the LGA, Chapter governments must be certified pursuant to 11 N.N.C. Part 1 Section 10 and are required to adopt and operate under a Five Management System which consists of policies and procedures for personnel, procurement, record keeping, property management and accounting. Chapters wanting to administer land are required to develop a community-based land use plan, which must receive certification from the Resources and Development Committee.
From: Navajo Nation Government, Fourth Edition, Office of Navajo Government Development, Window Rock, Navajo Nation.Click here to learn more.