This is probably not a new idea; most ideas are not. So let’s say it’s an idea that’s time has come about again. The idea is to make the Navajo Nation the 51st state within the United States of America. The State of Navajo. It’s almost Zen, how it rolls off the tongue. This idea has been deep in the reptilian core of my brain for some time, lying dormant till news of the Navajo government was finalizing its Medicaid feasibility study to go before Congress for approval this spring, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Then boom, all those thoughts and ideas to somehow fix or feed the many problems we have.
It is constitutional to create a new state out of an existing state(s), in this case, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, with the approval of those state legislatures and of Congress. The process for carving out a new state is outlined in Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution: “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress. “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.” This process has been used successfully to create five states: Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maine and West Virginia. Maybe Congress can make us a state without the consent of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, since the territory, a.k.a Navajo Nation, legally belongs to the United States.
Why should the Navajo Nation become the fifty-first state in the U.S.? First and foremost, we will have our own representation in Congress and the Senate. I don’t think senators McCain and Kyle are looking out for us. Just look at the recent Little Colorado River agreement they tried to get past us. Do you really think the governors of the three states are looking out for us? They are like relatives, who come to borrow money, only with them, its vote time or they want something, is when they come to say, Shi’kish’ (my friend). Perhaps when we are a state we will be witness to that so called “government to government” relationship, that’s been much the “in” word for the past ten years, but that is all it is.
Other basic rationales are, we do not share the same ideology or official language of the states we are considered to be within, taxation with representation does not exist, we could enjoy ownership and full say over all our natural resources, which by the way, is worth billions, if not trillions of dollars. The water alone is worth billions, ask California. What better way to jump start a new dying West? I mean, are we still not mavericks? Blazing new trails, building new dreams for the future. Forget about Flagstaff, Holbrook, Farmington, Gallup, and all those border towns, this is bigger and better than them all. The State of Navajo.
Remember too, even though it says “Nation” after Navajo, it’s still land held in trust for the Navajos by the United States government, hence “reservation”. One rider, one act of Congress, can change it all, and believe me, looking at a few of our borders; it’s getting crowded, “out there”. This goes for all the American Indians. I know I may have missed many points here, but can Navajos imagine life and a government without Arizona, Utah and New Mexico interfering in our affairs? I can. One of the things we understand is the “paperwork” when we need something from the government(s). Even if it’s just a CIB. The Holy People have treated us very, very well. There are well over three hundred thousand Navajos in and around the “reservation." That number will double by the time I hit the “Pollen Trial." We need a true place to call home, we need to make our own destiny, to fully appreciate and experience the America that so many have sacrificed for. The reservation days are over, gone. Granted there was a time, we needed to be “looked” after, but now it’s high time to look after ourselves, for good or for ill. Navajos have always been the first Indians to do many things. Let us rise to the occasion again, together, in this new century to build something worthwhile, to get behind a cause so great as to involve every male and female of all ages. The stakes are high, but we are up to the task, I assure you. Being a state will actually benefit Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Like a relative, who finally gets a job and moves away. Let’s not wait forever like Washington, D.C and Puerto Rico. We need to be the fifty-first state in the United States of America. The State of Navajo. If anything, think about it over and over, project it, make it happen.
Nathan Lefthand is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation.