Navajo Nation Not Ready for Female President



WINDOW ROCK, Ariz.-On the morning of Tues, Nov. 2, Dorothy Shorty, an elder and a member of the Navajo Nation brewed her daily cup of coffee, tuned her radio to KTNN and listened eagerly.

It was election Tuesday, with Lynda Lovejoy and Ben Shelly going head to head for the title of President of the Navajo Nation in what everyone thought was going to be a close race after a grueling and sometimes rumor-driven election campaign.

2010 President of the Navajo Nation candidate, Lynda Lovejoy

But the election of 2010 wasn’t the tight race that the Navajo Nation had expected. Shelly prevailed over Lovejoy with more than 3500 votes, even while facing charges of fraud and conspiracy.

The tribe filed a complaint against Shelly with the belief that he supplied Tribal Council discretionary funds to family and friends between 2005 and 2006. The funds total over $8000. Thirty-eight people have been charged in the investigation.

During the campaign, Lovejoy, though on the New Mexico state legislature and aware of federal processes, was questioned by the people only on her knowledge of Navajo governmental processes, which raises a cultural question. Was the Navajo Nation ready for a female leader?

In 2006, Lynda Lovejoy shocked the Navajo people by becoming the first woman to make it as a final candidate in the run for presidency. That year, voters elected Joe Shirley Jr. as Navajo Nation President for his second and final term.

Traditionally, Men and Women Were Separated by Job Duties

Lovejoy, with the 2006 campaign, had already made a name for herself with Navajo voters who hoped that a different leader would mean different ideas and processes.

“I just wanted to see a change. I wanted to see what a woman could do,” Maynard Becenti of Window Rock, Ariz. said. “I don’t have any gripes with a woman leading.”

Dorothy Shorty explained her feelings toward the election as she stepped up to the booth on Election Day, “I wondered to myself if we, as a society today, are ready to challenge old teachings.”

Traditionally, men and women were separated by job duties. Women were expected to be leaders in domesticity: household chores, cooking, cleaning, caring for children, and butchering. Men were separated as leaders in hunting, livestock labor, and politics. In today’s world, these placements are flexible.

In an interview conducted by Daniel Kraker, Eunice Manson, who has knowledge as a medicine woman explained why a woman should never lead the Navajo people.
“At the time that she’s becoming a leader,” Manson said, “if there are any pregnant women, if there are any pregnant women out there, when they bear their children, they’re going to bear monsters with bad character, and these are the ones that are going to grow up and rise up and destroy our people.”
“People started talking about tradition,” Becenti states, “But half of the people don’t even follow traditions. “
“Women do have leadership responsibilities,” Dorothy said in response to Lovejoy’s loss to Shelly. “We focus on our children, taking care of our families. We do have leadership.”
“From what I’ve heard, Lovejoy was a good candidate,” said Heather Jordan (Navajo), first-semester student at IAIA. “It seems like she came out as a whole different person this election. I don’t follow rumors, but her first election run was the better one. I would’ve voted for her then.”
Copyright © IAIA CHRONICLE 2010


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