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Navajo presidential candidate in doubt over fluency in language

Chris Deschene, far left, with his supporters. Photo from Facebook

Chris Deschene, a candidate for president of the Navajo Nation, faces renewed doubts about his future after the tribe's highest court reopened challenges to his Navajo language fluency.

In a decision on Friday, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court said the tribe's Office of Hearings and Appeals should not have dismissed grievances that questioned whether Deschene is fluent in the Navajo language. Deschene had argued that the requirement was discriminatory.

"The qualification for fluency in the Navajo language is a reasonable regulation to a candidate's right to political liberty," the court stated. "It is the right and freedom of the people that the sacred Dine language be taught and preserved."

The Office of Hearings and Appeals will now determine whether Deschene is qualified to remain on the ballot for the November 4 election. His opponent is Joe Shirley Jr., a former president who speaks Navajo fluently.

Get the Story:
Deschene case goes back to office of hearings and appeals (The Navajo Times 9/27)
Presidential Candidate in Navajo Nation Protests a Language Requirement (The New York Times 9/27)
Navajo language fluency is a 'reasonable' requirement for president, tribal Supreme Court says (The Farmington Daily Times 9/27)
Navajo high court weighs case on language fluency (AP 9/26)

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Order:
Tsosie v. Deschene (September 26, 2014)

Related Stories:
Navajo Nation might postpone election due to legal challenge (9/25)
Navajo Nation court to hear language issue affecting candidate (9/24)
Appeal filed over Navajo language ability of presidential hopeful (9/17)
Navajo Nation presidential candidate a target over fluency issue (09/11)
Navajo voters oust incumbent president Ben Shelly in primary (08/27)

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