The Navajo Nation encompasses all things important to the Navajo people: the land, kinship, language, religion and the right to govern themselves. The Navajo Homeland covers about 26,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers, 17 million acres) of land, occupying all of northeastern Arizona, and extending into Utah and New Mexico, and is the largest land area assigned primarily to a Native American jurisdiction within the United States. Members of the nation are often known as Navajo (or Navaho) but traditionally call themselves Dineh which means people.
The 2000 census reported 298,215 Navajo people living throughout the United States, of which 173,987 were living within the Navajo Nation boundaries. 131,166 lived in Arizona and 17,512 of these lived in Maricopa County, which includes the city of Phoenix. Because the Navajo Nation encompasses land in three states, its Division of Economic Development extracts census data for the Navajo Nation as a whole, and sends a representative to the Census Board. Another group lives on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation along the Colorado River in California and Arizona.
Crow, Richard & Pat
Prior to the Long Walk of the Navajo, traditional Navajo government was based upon regional communities and extended family leaders who worked together by consensus. Europeans have tried to overlay their notions of government upon the Navajo for centuries.
In 1863 and 1864, as the Anglo settlers' demand for land grew, the United States government forced more than 8,500 Navajo men, women and children to march in harsh winter conditions for hundreds of miles to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico (present-day Ft. Sumner) as part of President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act. Some Navajos were able to escape and hide at Navajo Mountain. As the march went on, the Navajo were forced to leave their elderly and young children behind. Five months later, the Navajos arrived at Bosque Redondo. Many Navajos died at the wretched prison camp, due to poor living conditions. The Navajos were imprisoned for about six years, and released in May 1868. Bosque Redondo had been proved as a miserable failure, because of poor planning, disease, crop infestation and generally poor conditions for agriculture.
After the Long Walk, the United States Government's Indian Policy determined the administration of the reservation. Appointed federal individuals (Indian Agents) essentially ruled the reservation, sometimes relying on the counsel of traditional Navajo methods of government. The current tribal government was established and recognized by the federal government in 1923.
The Dineh have refused three times to establish a new government under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Members twice rejected constitutional initiatives offered by the federal government in Washington, first in 1935 and again in 1953. A reservation-based initiative in 1963 failed after members found the process to be too cumbersome and a potential threat to their self-determination. A constitution was drafted and adopted by the governing council but never ratified by the members. The earlier efforts were rejected primarily because members did not find enough freedom in the proposed forms of government to develop their livestock industries, in 1935, and their mineral resources, in 1953.
In 2006, a Committee for a Navajo Constitution started to advocate for a Navajo constitutional convention. The committee's goal is to have representation from every chapter on Navajo Nation represented at a constitution convention.
The majority religion of the Navajo Nation is referred to as the Navajo Way. The traditional Navajo way contains no concept for religion as a sphere of activity separate from daily life. The purpose of Navajo life is to maintain balance between the individual and the universe and to live in harmony with nature and the Creator.
There are also small groups of Christians and members of the Native American Church.