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THE NAVAJO TRIBAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

An Outline of the Forum Presented by

Chief Justice Robert Yazzie

 

Within the Navajo Nation, there are 3 legal systems:

1. Federal/State Courts

2. Tribal Courts

a. two levels - trial court and the supreme court

b. 14 trial judges, half of whom are women.

3. Traditional Indian Legal Concepts

The Tribal Court system is a Western style justice system imposed (forced) upon the Navajo Nation is 1892. The first two justice systems which exist in the Navajo Nation have American law as their basis. American law has three components: 1. norms, 2. institutions, and 3. force.

But these three factors are not part of traditional Indian law. Navajo law is like an iceberg - only the tip is visible. The great body of Navajo law lies beneath the surface. The underlying purpose of Navajo law is restitution. Navajo law strives to achieve the perfect state to help guide conduct. It is based upon what should be. The stages of dispute resolution are:

1. prayer

2. discussion

3. lecture

4. consensus

5. reconciliation

The basis of Navajo law comes from the Holy People to provide stability for the body, mind and spirit. To achieve this stability, you must look at body, mind, and spirit as one thing in the task of restoring it to the original.