Navajo chapter meetings

By Bill Donovan and George Joe

If you drive into any one of the 110 communities (chapters) across the reservation, you may see a lot of trucks parked around a building. If you ask around, and they tell you that a “chapter meeting” is taking place, then you have come across a local town government meeting. Most of their meetings are held on weekends across the reservation.

They are interesting meetings, but most of the discussion is in Navajo. You are welcome to attend. But if you are a non-Indian, you may get some stares when you first arrive – usually because they may think you are presenting. Don’t worry, it’s a public meeting and anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. At times, there are heated debates on certain local issues and people may get out of hand. The heated issues usually are over land and development. A Navajo police officer sometimes stops by to see that things are in order, but doesn’t stay for long.

The meetings follow Robert’s Rules of Order and there is an official agenda. The people sitting upfront, facing the crowd are the locally elected public officials, including the Navajo Tribal Council delegate who serves that area. The officials are usually very nice and eager to help.

Food is usually sold or sometimes served. It takes 25 local community members for a meeting quorum. As soon as the officials see that there is a quorum, they will start the meeting. A regular chapter meeting will take at least six hours.