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April 27th – Navajo Sovereignty Day Article

The Navajo Nation established April 16th as the original Navajo Sovereignty day in 1985, but now it is celebrated on the fourth Monday of April.

Short History

The Navajo Nation is a sovereign tribe with a population of Indigenous people, and it covers 27,000 square miles in three states. Back in 1868, the Nation signed a treaty with the U.S. Government declaring them an independent nation. This was after the forced march of Navajos from their homelands to another region in New Mexico. When the treaty was signed, Navajos were allowed to return home with established borders recognized by the U.S. Government.

Why do we celebrate Navajo Sovereignty Day?

In 1985, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Navajo Nation could impose their own taxes without approval from the US Government. This was a huge step for the Nation because it meant they can do it at their own discretion and they have independence in government proceedings. In other words, the US Government did not have no say over what goes on in Tribal lands in association with taxes.

What was the Supreme Court case about?

The basis for the Supreme Court ruling was the case of Kerr-McGee versus the Navajo Nation. This lawsuit was between non-tribal businesses who challenged the Tribal Council’s imposed business activity tax and a possessor interest tax on them. The Navajo Nation was able to argue that the ability to impose taxes not only was theirs because they are a sovereign nation, but it necessary to earn money to contribute back to their governmental operations.

What happened since the case?

Since the ruling, the Navajo Nation has imposed various taxes on oil, gas, tobacco products, and more on non-tribal businesses. The Navajo Nation’s budget and funds for the Navajo people largely come from these taxes. People celebrate every year and all Navajo Nation running institutions, organizations, and businesses are given the day off.

By: Desiderya Costello

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