The meaning of sovereignty to the Diné a study of urban Phoenix Navajo
My study focuses on the political attitudes and beliefs of Diné who live in metropolitan Phoenix. The three questions that orient this research project are: (1) Who are the urban Phoenix Diné? (2) How do urban Phoenix Diné define sovereignty? (3) What issues and concerns do urban Phoenix Diné have about Navajo government and the governments) that affect them? Using a postcolonial theoretical framework, my study counterposes the dominant definition(s) of sovereignty—the legal and political definitions that have underpinned U.S. federal policy toward Native Americans and the formal sovereignty of tribal nations—to the new scholarly and activist concern with cultural sovereignty.
To answer my research questions, I conducted in depth interviews with 32 Navajo who live either permanently or temporarily in the Phoenix area. The participants were selected by the following criteria: (1) they identify being Navajo; (2) they are over the age of 18 years; and (3) they are willing to participate in the project.
The interview schedule included 65 questions. There were 12 general questions about living in Phoenix, 17 demographic questions, 10 questions about cultural practices and values, and 26 questions about sovereignty, politics, and government. Only Navajo individuals that agreed to participate and signed the Release of Information form with rights to free consent, informed consent, confidentiality, privacy and anonymity (Appendix B) were included in the study.
The interviews were analyzed to identify the views of the Phoenix Diné interviewed, a relatively small sample of the urban Diné population. Interviews and possible variation among respondents' political attitudes and views of sovereignty were interpreted. Demographic characteristics and information about cultural values and practices were examined to determine whether different groups of urban Phoenix Diné could be identified (according to degree of traditionalism and assimilation to dominant society's norms). The relationship between cultural identity, locations on an exploratory acculturation scale, political attitudes, and views of sovereignty were thus explored.
The study provided information on urban Navajo interviewees' perception about sovereignty and government performance. The study included compilation of a profile of the participants that can be used to leverage additional studies that may lead to recognition of urban Navajo politically, economically, and socially. The study matters in the aftermath of the closure of the Phoenix Diné Incorporated, and the continued increase of migration of Navajo to Phoenix and other urban areas.
Native American studies;
0631: Ethnic studies
0740: Native American studies