Press Release

DATE: Tuesday, March 28, 2023

This year marks the 64th anniversary of the Navajo Nation courts and the return of Justice Day with an event hosted by the Supreme Court, Peacemaking Program and Window Rock District Court. The public is invited to the event, which will be held April 4, 2023, at the Supreme Court and Window Rock District Court, east of the Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Ariz.

Justice Day commemorates the creation of the Navajo Nation’s own court system on April 1, 1959. It also gives the public the opportunity to learn more about the Navajo Nation courts and peacemaking. The judicial districts have not held the annual commemorations since 2019 due to the pandemic.

This year’s activities will begin with a march from the Navajo Nation Museum to the Supreme Court/Window Rock District Court at 8 a.m. The march is co-sponsored by the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project. At 9 a.m., resources are invited to set up at the parking lot of the courts to provide information to the public. A short agenda will take place at 10 a.m. with remarks by Chief Justice JoAnn B. Jayne and an update on the Diné Action Plan (DAP) by DAP co-chair Dempsey Harvey, Peacemaking Program Bi-Cultural Training Manager.

Before having its own court system, the Navajo Tribe had courts that were under federal government control. In the 1950s, a proposal was introduced in the state of Arizona to take over the Navajo courts using the then newly-enacted federal Public Law 280. The Navajo Tribal Council acted at that time to approve a resolution that abolished the Navajo Courts of Indian Offenses, which were courts of the Department of Interior, and declared the existing courts as courts of the Navajo Tribe. The resolution became effective April 1, 1959.

The establishment of its own court system was an inherent exercise of sovereignty by the Navajo government. Notably, the Navajo people also had their own form of dispute resolution before a court system was in place where they talked things out with leaders who were selected by community consensus. This process of hózh̨óji naat’aah, is recognized today through the Judicial Branch’s Peacemaking Program. As part of its function, the Peacemaking Program provides education on traditional customs and Diné Fundamental Law.

Today there are 11 judicial districts with district and family courts and offices for the Peacemaking Program and Probation & Parole Services. The judicial districts include Window Rock, Tuba City, Kayenta, Aneth, Shiprock, Crownpoint and Pueblo Pintado, Dilkon, Chinle, Dził Yijiin, Ramah, and To’Hajiilee/Alamo. The Navajo court system also has a Supreme Court that hears appeals.