What does it mean for Navajo Leadership in the 21st century?


  • Lloyd L. Lee Native American Studies University of New Mexico


The Navajo (Diné) word naat’áanii is used to signify Diné men and women who areplanners, orators, and community leaders. If you translate the word into theEnglish language, it roughly means orator, speaking to and for the people. Theword also refers to leader yet the depth of this word and context is morespecific and honored. Diné peoples use the word naat’áanii whenreferring to chairmen, presidents, council delegates, and chapter officials. Whilethe word itself does not designate an individual a naat’áanii, the wordis acknowledged as a distinct title. In the creation narratives,certain entities held this recognition such as ![ts4 Hastiin (First Man), ![ts4Asdz33 (First Woman), and the Hashch’47 Dine’4 (Holy People). Later, mountain lion, bear, and coyote were bestowed as naat’áanii. Theywere chosen because they demonstrated certain characteristics and abilities. However,none of them were dependable. Mountain lion was too lazy, bear got angry tooeasily and quickly, and coyote was too mischievous and dishonest. Later, humanswere recognized as naat’áaniis.

Author Biography

Lloyd L. Lee, Native American Studies University of New Mexico


AnCita Benally, Diné Binahat’á, Navajo Government (PhD diss., Arizona State University, 2006), xiv.

David E. Wilkins, The Navajo Political Experience Revised Edition (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003), 35.

Peter Iverson, Diné: A History of the Navajos (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2002), 163.

Robert W. Young, A Political History of the Navajo Tribe (Tsaile, AZ: Navajo Community College Press, 1978), 28.

Peter Iverson, Diné: A History of the Navajos (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002), 134.

David E. Wilkins, Diné Bibeehaz’áanii: A Handbook of Navajo Government (Tsaile, AZ: Navajo Community College Press, 1987), 35.

Susan Severance-King, Leaders in a Leaderless Society: Understanding Navajo Community Leadership (New York: Peter Lang, 1996), 40.

Bruce James Gjeltema, Jacob Casimera Morgan and the development of Navajo nationalism (PhD Diss., University of New Mexico, 2004), 4.

Gregory A. Cajete, “For the Good of the People: Creating Indigenous Leadership Programs in a 21st Century World.” (Unpublished article)