Shocks to the Navajo (Diné) Political System: Resiliency of traditional Diné institutions in the face of colonial interaction (Contact to 1923).


  • Michael Lerma Politics and International Affairs, Applied Indigenous Studies Northern Arizona University


"Did colonial activity purge Din4 (Navajo) governance of traditional institutions?" Navajo Nation and its governance are here today. “Peoplehood” explains why colonialism failed to, generally, destroy traditional Diné institutions of governance (Holm, Pearson, and Chavis 2003). Punctuated equilibrium model (or PEM) explains the relationship between shocking events and loss of governing institutions. Historically impactful events are used as a data set. Each event is ranked for a relative level of shock to the Diné. A test is devised, based on Qualitative Comparative Analysis, to consider the causal impact of four colonial strategies on the elimination of traditional Diné institutions of governance. Interestingly, between contact and 1922, the impact was minimal. Only one institution of Diné governance, the Naachid, was halted. Hence, the history of colonial interaction is more complex than past research has indicated. Contemporary Native Nations, and Navajo Nation, should be more cognizant of specific colonial activity lest such activity emerge today leading to further erosion of remaining aspects of Indigenous sovereignty.


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