What is Navajo Tribal Sovereignty and why is it a Navajo Nation Holiday?
“This day is a time to celebrate and honor how we, the Navajo people are a nation, and how we continue to endure since creation.”- President Russell Begaye
Sovereignty came from mid-1500s’ Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people's rule, it is the principle that the authority of a state and its government is created and sustained by the consent of its people, through their elected representatives (Rule by the People), who are the source of all political power. The people have the final say in government decisions. Benjamin Franklin expressed the concept when he wrote, "In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns". The Webster-Merriam Dictionary definition of Sovereignty is a supreme power especially over a body politic, freedom from external control( meaning Autonomy), or controlling influence.
The federal government has special trust obligations cited in treaties: to protect tribal lands and resources, protect tribal rights to self-government, and provide services necessary for tribal survival and advancement. The Federally recognized tribes are considered domestic dependent nations. Tribal sovereignty refers to tribes' right to govern themselves, define their own membership, manage tribal property, and regulate tribal business and domestic relations; it further recognizes the existence of a government-to-government relationship between such tribes and the federal government.
Sovereignty is a non-Navajo word, but in Dine’ it has a related concept called Onni’ Inteego, Self-Responsibility. Formal recognition of Navajo Sovereignty can be dated back to April 16th, 1868 at the signing of Treaty of 1868. Navajo Sovereignty Day, which is on the fourth Monday in April, celebrates the day the Navajo Nation gained its independence from the U.S. government. President Begaye also that sovereignty is, “based around the Navajo people and as long as the Navajo people are on the face of the earth, we will be sovereign,...Sovereignty is innate. It’s who we are as people.” Today, we respect and honor Navajo Sovereignty Day.