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Should the president of the Navajo Nation be required to speak fluent Navajo?
The Navajo Nation held a referendum on that question this week, and the majority voted no.
The vote was victory for supporters of a Navajo presidential candidate who was disqualified last fall because he didn't speak the language fluently. The next Navajo Nation election is in 2018.
Advocates say loosening the language requirement will enable the younger candidates, who are less likely to speak the language, to run for Navajo president. Opponents say the change will weaken the Navajo culture.
"Language and culture ties in together," says Jessica Dodson, 23, a Navajo who speaks the language fluently. "You cannot separate them."
Dodson tells NPR's Scott Simon that she believes the nation should keep the language requirement. She works at a senior center, where she says she speaks Navajo every day.
Supporters of Navajo presidential candidate Chris Deschene gather outside an administrative court in Window Rock, Ariz. Questions about his fluency in the Navajo language have dogged his campaign.
Navajo presidential candidate Chris Deschene greets supporters ahead of a hearing in Window Rock, Ariz., to determine whether Deschene is fluent enough in Navajo to qualify for the presidency.
"I see a lot of our younger generation having cell phones, playing video games, watching TV," she says. "They're not really going out there into the community and showing themselves that they do care about saving our language and our culture."
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