Student Research Topics

Law of Indigenous Peoples Paper Topic: Felisha Adams

Felisha Adams, Navajo Business Site Leasing Policies: Measuring Up to Diné Needs? (2019)

This article has been created in response to the perceived difficulty in operating successful businesses on the Navajo Nation and as an effort to support tribal self-governance through economic development. There is well documented case law, history, and policies that evidence how the tribal attempts to provide for self as an individual, and as a nation, have been oppressed by imprudent and inequitable relations with foreigners.  Additionally, decades of statistics exhibit disturbing deprivations of the people, their land, and their resources.  The Navajo Nation is one of many tribes committed to remediate damages and restore hozho, alternatively defined as peace and stability.  The commercial business site leasing enactments by the United States Congress and the Navajo Nation are an affirmative step towards economic resolutions that fit the tribe’s unique needs. The Navajo Nation Trust Land Leasing Act of 2000 delegates business site leasing regulatory authority from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation Business Site Leasing Regulations of 2005 accepts and executes the regulatory authority.  The tribe has made progress since 2000, however, economic indicators suggest there is still room for improvement, including policy revision.  

As a tribal member and stakeholder, I find that it is critical to conduct this analysis through an indigenous perspective.  First, the document explores historical to modern interpretations of Navajo fundamental law, governance, land, and commercial development to conceptualize a Navajo standard of economic success. It is through the Navajo standard that legislative acts, business site leasing management, and preparation for the future are analyzed to answer whether current business site leasing policies align with established Diné fundamental law.  The research also focused on determining whether the Act fulfills the Navajo Nation’s needs or if is there a greater need for policy change. In an attempt to provide measurable answers, the document also provides suggestions for ways to improve the process to better provide benefits for stakeholders.  The research for this document consisted of various academic, historical, legal, business, and tribal resources.

As one of the largest tribes in North America, the Navajo Nation’s unique responsibilities are magnified by the court system, land base, political structure, and population size.  The next element of this document explores governmental roles and responsibilities in addition to relevant business site leasing laws.  Contrary to impressions of a system difficult to navigate, much of the information used for this research is available to the public. The public documents regarding governance, demographics, economic development and case law are supplemented by widely acclaimed published material.  The published material was utilized to highlight cultural information specific to  the Navajo Nation as well as indigenous tribes collectively. Lastly, the research is supplemented by the author’s educational and professional background.  The conclusion provides that the tribe’ exercise of authority is beneficial to the Navajos but policy modifications could increase efficiency.

By Tribal Law Journal Blog

The Tribal Law Journal was established in fall 1998 for the purpose of promoting indigenous self-determination by facilitating discussion of the internal law of the world’s indigenous nations. The internal law of indigenous nations encompasses traditional law, western law adopted by indigenous nations, and a blend of western and indigenous law. Underscoring this purpose is the recognition that traditional law is a source of law.

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