Navajo Postpone Election|in Language Fracas

     (CN) – The Navajo Nation Supreme Court on Thursday postponed its Nov. 4 presidential election in a fight over a candidate who was disqualified, then reinstated, then disqualified again due to questions about his fluency in Navajo language.
     In a 2-1 ruling, the Navajo Supreme Court ruled that the election must be postponed, and ballots reprinted, without the name of Chris Deschene.
     Tribal officials ruled on Oct. 9 that Deschene, who finished second in the primary, should be disqualified because he refused to prove his fluency in the language.
     The nation’s elections board ruled on Oct. 13 that Deschene could stay on the ballot.
     But on Thursday the Navajo Nation’s highest court disqualified Deschene again and ordered that ballots be reprinted, the election be postponed, and the primary’s No. 3 finisher moved up to No. 2 on the presidential ballot.
     The Navajo, who call themselves Diné, are the largest Native American group in the United States, by population and by land area. More than half of the nation’s 300,000 members speak Diné. They are one of the few Native American nations who managed to hold onto a significant part of their traditional homeland: more than 27,000 square miles in the Four Corners area.
     More than 50,000 Apaches (Nné or Ndé) live in Arizona, many of whom speak dialects of the Athapaskan language, and other tribes on smaller, scattered reservations speak other dialects from Northern California through Alaska.
     More and longer than any other Native American nation, the Navajo have fought to preserve their language. The Diné use their own language for terms such as “catalytic converter” and computer programming language.
     Deschene has claimed that his opponents have discriminatorily singled him out by using an elections qualification test he said has never been used before, but he allegedly has refused to prove his fluency by responding to questions in Diné.
     Not surprisingly, the court fight was the top story on Thursday’s Navajo Times.
     Deschene, a Marine Corps veteran, said on his Facebook page: “I respect the Supreme Court, but they simply got this one wrong. I want to be your president. I am qualified to be your president. And I remain on the ballot as a presidential candidate. You must continue to vote.”
     The Navajo Supreme Court found that Deschene had failed to turn in all the documents he needed to by the Monday, Oct. 20 deadline.
     It called the nation’s Office of Hearings and Appeals’ Oct. 9 ruling “final and enforceable,” according to the Navajo Times.
     The supreme court ruling had not been posted on the nation’s website by late Thursday afternoon.

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