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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — A candidate for president on the nation's largest Indian reservation could be removed from the ballot just weeks before the election after he refused to show whether he is fluent in Navajo as required by tribal law.
In a hearing that underlined the importance of the language to the Navajo Nation, an administrative court officer said he had no choice but to rule against Chris Deschene.
"I have been pushed into a corner," said Richie Nez, of the tribe's Office of Hearings and Appeals, after Deschene repeatedly declined to answer questions in Navajo.
Deschene vowed to appeal Nez's decision, meaning it's unclear whether he will appear on the ballot. He must file his appeal within 10 days to the tribe's Supreme Court, which likely will consider the case on an expedited basis.
No decision will be made on whether Deschene's name will be on the ballot on Election Day until after the appeal period.
Deschene said he is proficient in speaking Navajo and that he has proven so on the campaign trail. He said he should not be subjected to a standard of fluency in a courtroom when that standard isn't well-defined.
"I respectfully decline to put myself in front of the whole world to answer a test that has not been vetted, has not been approved," Deschene said in court.
The case stems from grievances filed by two of Deschene's primary election opponents, who cited a Navajo law that requires anyone seeking the tribe's top elected office to be fluent in Navajo. It is the first time a candidate has been challenged under the law, approved by the Tribal Council in the early 1990s.
Dale Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne allege Deschene lied when he attested to speaking the language fluently when he applied to be a candidate.
Attorneys for the two accused Deschene of dodging the issue. Deschene declined to take a fluency test designed by personnel from the tribe's education department and did not answer questions in Navajo in a videotaped deposition earlier this week. On Thursday, he also declined to answer questions in Navajo from Whitethorne's attorney Justin Jones about tribal government procedures.
"It's a fair question. He's a presidential candidate," said David Jordan, Tsosie's attorney. "We're not asking him the Pythagorean theorem in Navajo. We're asking how a resolution becomes law."
The Navajo Supreme Court last month sent the case back to Nez after ruling the Navajo language is sacred and cannot be disregarded as a qualification for the presidency.
The language is a defining part of the tribe's culture, said to have been handed down by deities. It's woven into creation stories and ceremonies, and spoken during legislative sessions, in dinner conversations and during Miss Navajo pageants.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more people speak Navajo than any other single American Indian language. Of the tribe's more than 300,000 members, about 169,000 speak Navajo.
Deschene said he believes the issue is broader than fluency. He said the Supreme Court also must consider the people who voted for him in the primary, a traditional law that says Navajos have the right to choose their leaders, and whether the grievances were timely filed.
The high court determined the grievances were filed within a deadline and ordered Nez to consider them on the merits.
Tribal officials have said the language dispute was threatening to postpone the Nov. 4 presidential election.
Absentee ballots giving voters a choice between Deschene and former President Joe Shirley Jr. went out Monday. Replacement ballots would have to be sent if Deschene is deemed unqualified, elections official Kimmeth Yazzie said.
The tribe's election office, which certified Deschene as a presidential candidate, said it takes applications for the presidency at face value. Deschene came in second to Shirley Jr. in the August primary.
The Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce has announced the nominees for the 2014 Palo Verde Women in Business Award.
Rotary started in February 1905 when Chicago lawyer Paul Harris and three friends met after dinner. The idea was to have a new club in which businessmen could get together periodically to get better acquainted. They rotated their meetings each week to the business of a member. Over the next few years Rotary transformed into a civic service club, spread across the United States and then around the world. Eventually Rotary came to Arizona and in 1914, the 100th Rotary Club was organized in Phoenix.
The signs in front of local schools do not carry a message that most kids want to hear — “School Begins in Early August.” In spite of protests, our kids are now making the usual preparations: buying school supplies, school clothes and often a new backpack. Whether old or new, some guidelines for using backpacks will come in handy for both youth and their parents.
Now that school is out for the summer it is time to consider ways to encourage kids to be active. We know that school activities such as recess, physical education, classroom exercise breaks, and before- and after-school physical activities all contribute significantly to meeting national guidelines for physical activity (60 minutes per day recommended). Research also indicates that many kids are sedentary during the summer months, getting less moderate to vigorous activity than during the school year. So when school is out it is important for kids to find other opportunities for exercise.
In 2008 the United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) appointed a committee of national experts to revise existing physical activity guidelines to include recommended amounts of physical activity for people of all ages (www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines). The guidelines for children recommended:
The Education Department on Thursday took the unprecedented step of releasing the names of the 55 colleges and universities currently facing a Title IX investigation over their handling of sexual abuse complaints.
As part of its new provisional status as a Level I Trauma Center, Chandler Regional Medical Center soon will begin training general surgery residents.
Agenda 21 Sustainable Development is a forty-chapter document adopted and signed by 178 nations at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Many people have heard the name, but don’t understand how it is being implemented and why it is so devastating to our American way of life.
Building and construction toys have been a fixture in playrooms since, well, forever, and there are several reasons for their enduring appeal.
Chandler’s Communications and Public Affairs Director Nachie Marquez was selected as the city’s new assistant city manager.
State lawmakers are moving to require the state to buy computer programs for English learners with specifications that were crafted in detail by a company selling the software.
A solid foundation set from 2013 projects has Gilbert Mayor John Lewis highly optimistic for the town’s economic success for 2014.
The Town of Queen Creek was once considered the far reaching outskirts of Phoenix, but this small town oasis – now a thriving east valley community – embraces its farming heritage while carefully watching over its growth and development. Business and town leaders seek to preserve the Town’s family-friendly, small-town spirit while providing economic opportunities and a high quality of life for residents.
From the perspectives of economic growth and city government, 2013 was a “banner year” for Chandler. That is how Mayor Jay Tibshraeny described it.
Teens and tweens — and even those who are too young to be an ‘een at all — are falling prey to a new drug, one that they can access free, at their fingertips on their cell phones or by hitting the button on their TV remote.
Each year the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce honors local business women through the Palo Verde Women in Business Award.
Two Summit School of Ahwatukee teachers have the honor of being selected as finalists for the “Private School Teacher of the Year” awards from more than 200 nominations.
Lisa Pino’s intention always was to enter public service upon graduation from law school at Arizona State University, and she has done so in many different arenas.
Mesa High School senior Karina Rivera remembered the moment when she realized her school was special.
Patriotic music, inspirational messages, the flag flown at half mast and a moment of silence were all part of a stirring 9/11 Memorial Tribute help in Gilbert Wednesday morning.
The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that would cut the National Endowment for the Arts by 49 percent. I think this is a terrible idea and call on our congressional delegation to reject this cut.
NEW YORK — There's extensive evidence that pigs are as smart and sociable as dogs. Yet one species is afforded affection and respect; the other faces mass slaughter en route to becoming bacon, ham and pork chops.