HISTORY OF THE NAVAJO WOMEN’S COMMISSION
Submitted by Charlotte Begaye, current and former member, Navajo Women’s Commission
In 1983, the Navajo Office of Women was established by Advisory Council Resolution ACJY-108-83 and signed by Edward T. Begay, Vice-Chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council. Their approved Plan of Operation included a local women’s group to only advise on program activities.
Afterwards, tribal council delegates and Chapter officials expressed the need for women to be represented and consulted for participation on issues. Peterson Zah, Chairman, encouraged women to make recommendations at the local chapter. The Office of Navajo Women conducted a study which showed that Navajo women had diverse issues covering a wide spectrum depending on their age grouping, socio-economic strata, educational background and individual aspirations. As a result, Advisory Council Resolution ACAP-63-85 established the Navajo Nation Women’s Commission with fifteen (15) members. Members were to be nominated for one to two year terms by the five Navajo Agency Councils, then appointed by the Chairman of the Navajo Nation Council, and confirmed by the Advisory Committee of the Navajo Nation Council.
On January 30, 1992, Nelson Gorman, Speaker, Navajo Nation Council, signed Resolution CJA-07-92, which deleted the Plan of Operation of the Office of Women and Families from Navajo Tribal Code and directed that their Plan of Operation be incorporated into the Master Plan of Operation for the Division of Human Resources, and further adopted the Navajo Women’s Commission into Navajo Tribal Code. Approved by President Peterson Zah, this legislation stated that Commissioners would consist of ten (10) Navajo enrolled individuals representing various educational, socio-economic and professional backgrounds. Each agency would have two (2) Commissioners with staggered terms.
Subsequent changes came when CAP-18-95, Legislative Concern Exhibit “H” directed the Human Service Committee to review and recommend amendments to the Plan of Operation of the Office of Women and Families and to reduce the ten members of the Commission on Navajo Women down to five (5) Commissioners. The Navajo Women’s Commission opposed this directive through NWCO-22-96 stating their wishes to retain the number of ten (10) commissioners.
In response, the Human Services Committee passed HSCD-82-96 dated December 19, 1996, recommending approvals to the Government Services Committee. On January 17, 1997, the Government Services Committee adopted GSCJA-01-97 retaining the number of commissioners at ten (10) and establishing a four year term of office. Thereafter, on April 24, 1997, the Navajo Nation Council acted on Resolution CAP-34-97 which approved amendments to the Navajo Women’s Commission Plan of Operation to broaden their purpose and maintain the ten (10) commissioners. This was signed by Speaker Kelsey A. Begay and approved by President Albert Hale on May 2, 1997.
On July 13, 1999, the Government Services Committee passed Resolution GSCJY-61-99, which referenced CAP-18-95, Legislative Concerns, to amend the Plan of Operation for the Navajo Women’s Commission. Their changes reduced the number of commissioners from ten to five (5) members and affirmed the following purposes and powers as found in 2 N.N.C. §1121
Subchapter 6, Navajo Women’s Commission
- The purposes of the Women’s Commission include:
- Supporting improvement in the status of Navajo men, women, youth, children and their
- Promoting methods for enabling women to develop their skills, to continue their education, to be retained or assume leadership roles;
- Assisting in setting government policies related to Navajo men, women, youth, children, and
- Assuring the Commission complies with Navajo Nation, federal and state laws;
- Reporting to the Navajo Nation President from time to time on the status of Navajo women and families;
- Undertaking studies and reviews on the status of Navajo men, women, youth, children and their families; and
- Securing recognition for the accomplishments and contributions of women to Navajo society; and
- Securing and/or seeking tribal, state and federal funding to provide awareness and prevention, intervention against domestic violence, youth violence and abuse against elderly.
- The powers of the Commission are as follows:
- The Commission is authorized and directed to disseminate information to the Navajo public concerning men, youth, children and women’s issues, maintain local participation of men,
youth, children and women within their communities, and advocate the continuation and support of programs and laws assisting Navajo men, women, youth and children;
- To develop recommendations and proposals relating to Navajo men, women, youth, and
- To provide short and long range planning, evaluation, and development to further enhance the status of Navajo men, women, youth and children;
- To review, evaluate, and recommend laws, rules and regulations of the Navajo Nation
Government in order to improve direct service delivery systems for Navajo women and
- To collect, assemble, evaluate, interpret, and distribute information, data, statistics, and
evidence which describe the needs, circumstances, and status of Navajo men, women, youth
- To conduct public hearings;
- To encourage private and public organizations, Chapters, traditional Navajo leaders, including native ceremonial practitioners to actively carry out the purposes of the Commission. The Commission shall give due consideration to the traditional values, preservation of family
harmony and philosophical views of the Navajo People;
- Work through the Navajo Women’s Commission, and with the Office of Navajo Women and Families Program Director and staff to plan overall goals and objectives and implement
- Work with Navajo Nation Council delegates and the Navajo Nation President’s Office to
promote plans and legislation on behalf of Navajo men, women, youth and children.
- To establish networking and coordination with other Navajo Nation Departments/Divisions,
State, Federal agencies for the benefit of Navajo men, women, youth and children.
- To establish the authority to solicit funds, fund raising and accept donations for Navajo youth and families incentive program and awards.
Prior Example of the Work of the Navajo Women’s Commission
In the Spring of 2010, each agency representative sponsored a local Conference in their agency. The Chinle Agency representative on the Navajo Women’s Commission, in partnership with local and regional resources, sponsored the T’aa Shi Inisht’eigo, “If It’s To Be, It’s Up to Me”, Conference held July 15, 2010 at Canyon de Chelly Elementary School. The Office of Navajo Women and Families and the Navajo Health Education program hosted this successful conference which targeted youth and their families. The Chapters of Blue Gap/Tachee, Cottonwood/Teslani and Black Mesa; Peabody Coal, Cellular One, Navajo Nation Department of Social Services, and the Navajo Oil and Gas Company provided financial donations to make this conference successful. Many Farms Chapter assisted with daily errands support.
Ms. Bessie Yellowhair, former Director of the Office of Women and Families, encouraged the Navajo Women’s Commission to strengthen and enrich the skills and knowledge of Navajo women and their families to strengthen and promote their self-reliance. Examples included cannery; homemaking skills; sewing; weaving; cooking native and contemporary foods; budgeting; parenting; disciplining; Diné government, history and winter stories.