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Gender, Navajo leadership and “retrospective falsification”

Lloyd L. Lee


Since 1923 when the first western Navajo government was formed by the Department of the Interior, the Navajo Nation has never elected a woman as council chair or President. In 2010, Lynda Lovejoy received the most votes of all the candidates in the primary and was favoured to win the general election but lost to Ben Shelly, vice-president of the Navajo Nation at the time. Several voters interviewed by the Navajo Times cited tradition as their main reason for not voting for Lovejoy. The voters believed that versions and interpretations of a Navajo creation story that tells about the separation of men and women that led to disharmony means women should not be leaders because it will lead to disharmony, instability and confusion. This paper suggests that colonialism and its impact on the story’s interpretation and on contemporary Navajo beliefs erroneously imply women should not be leaders in the Navajo Nation.

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Print ISSN 1177-1801 Online ISSN 1174-1740