The Navajo Nation will inaugurate Peterson Zah as its new president on Tuesday, hoping that his administration will be the dawn of tribal government dedicated to rooting out corruption.
Zah, 52, will lead the Navajos' new three-branch system of government, one designed to diffuse the power formerly held by the tribal chairman."Last year the Navajo Nation Council amended the tribe's code, which outlines the framework of the government," said Larry Key Yazzie, an administrative assistant for the transition government. "That amendment redistributed government authority among the various officials into a more even, fair distribution of power."
Power was top-heavy at the tribal chairman's level before, Yazzie said.
But as the Navajo Nation Council dealt with allegations of corruption by suspended Chairman Peter MacDonald, who was charged with conspiracy in tribal courts, they decided changes were needed.
The Navajo Nation Council - or legislative branch - was given greater powers to lessen the control exerted by the old tribal chairman's position, which will now be that of president.
"The amendments reaffirmed the judiciary as a separate branch of the government," Yazzie said. "That was fortunate because otherwise everything would have been blown apart, in my opinion."
Zah and the 89 Navajo Nation Council delegates, who will represent 217,000 Navajos in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, will be inaugurated Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the fairgrounds here.
Displeasure with tribal government was high in the November elections, evidenced by the fact that "a great majority of the 89 council delegates were not re-elected," Yazzie said.
Utah Navajos hope the new government won't ignore them. But only three council members are from Utah and three more represent both Utah and Arizona. The real power is concentrated in Arizona where the majority of tribal members live.
"There will certainly be discussion of Utah's perception that it is ignored," Yazzie said. "Mark Maryboy has submitted a formal proposal to the president that a position be created to fill the void of communication between the president's office and his constituents in Utah."
Maryboy, a San Juan County commissioner, also will represent the tribe's Aneth Chapter on the tribal council, along with Andrew Tso.
The Maryboy proposal envisions hiring a liaison between Utah Navajos, Arizona tribal officials and the state of Utah.
The liaison would monitor funds from state and local government used to provide service to Utah Navajos.
Providing Utah Navajos with running water and electrical power is one of Maryboy's main concerns.