Navajo Presidential Candidate Doesn't Speak Navajo

September 09, 2014
Jennifer Johnson
Navajo tribal members line up to vote in Chinle.

The Navajo Nation requires its presidential candidates to speak fluent Navajo. One of the two candidates who won last month’s primary admits that he doesn't.

Navajo presidential candidate Chris Deschene told the Navajo Times he speaks only English because he’s a product of cultural destruction.

Colleen Cooley and several other Navajo voters said that’s unacceptable.

“You’re speaking for your people as the president,” Cooley said. “You’re making decisions on behalf of the Navajo people and a lot of these are elders who cannot speak or understand English.”

Cooley is part of a group that has filed a grievance with the Navajo Election Administration.

The administration director said it's not their job to do background checks and investigate every candidate. To run for tribal office the candidates read the requirements, take an oath and have it notarized.