The Navajo people recently approved an initiative that amended that Nation’s unwritten constitution. Similar to England, New Zealand, and Israel, the Navajo and hundreds of other federally recognized Indian tribes do not organize their government nor operate pursuant to a written constitution.
On December 15, 2009, the citizens of the Navajo Nation made major amendments to their unwritten constitution and their government by a direct vote on a tribal initiative. The Navajo people voted 25,206 to 16,166 to reduce the size of their legislative tribal council from 88 members to 24 and they also approved granting the Navajo president a line item veto power over the Nation’s annual budget. This constitutes a major shift in the tribal governmental structure and in the allocation of sovereign power between the Navajo executive and legislative branches.
The Navajo Nation Tribal Council has taken steps to assert its authority, perhaps in response. The Council passed a bill limiting the Navajo courts use of traditional cultural values so that they can only be used now in the Navajo Peacemaker courts and not in the Office of Hearings and Appeals nor by the Navajo Supreme Court. The President can veto the bill however and the Supreme Court might weigh in on this issue in the future.