of the

Strongly Opposing the Proposed Arizona Initiative "English Language Education for Children in Public Schools" and Directing the Education Committee and the Division of Diné Education to Inform and Educate Navajo Schools, Parents, and Voters of the Content and Consequences of This Initiative.


1. Pursuant to 2 N.N.C. §102, the Navajo Nation Council is the governing body of the Navajo Nation; and

2. pursuant to 10 N.N.C. § 111, The Navajo language is an essential element of the life, culture and identity of the Navajo people. The Navajo Nation recognizes the importance of preserving and perpetuating that language to the survival of the Nation. Instruction in the Navajo language shall be made available for all grade levels in all schools serving the Navajo Nation.

3. An Arizona initiative entitled "English Language Education for Children in Public Schools" (or "AZ Unz initiative", attached as Exhibit "A") is being circulated by an English Only group called "English for the Children of Arizona" (EChAr) for signatures which would cause it to be placed on the Arizona ballot in November 2000; and

4. Ron Unz, a well-to-do California computer entrepreneur, managed the "Unz Initiative" (Proposition 227) which was passed in California last summer; he is now backing similar initiatives in Arizona and other states. The proposed AZ Unz initiative, a stricter version of last year's CA Unz initiative, is intended to revise Arizona's language education laws to make it even more difficult for Arizona children to receive developmental English or bilingual instruction than CA Unz now does for California children; and

5. The AZ Unz initiative is an "English Only" initiative that would place all children with limited English in an "intensive one-year [only] English program" which they call "sheltered English immersion" or "structured English immersion" ( see analysis attached as Exhibit "8"); and

6. In the late 80's, the federally-funded Ramírez study, intended to prove the superiority of multi-year "structured English immersion", failed to do so; the AZ Unz initiative would mandate a single year of such instruction; and

7. "Structured/sheltered English" is presented as "a temporary transition period not to exceed one year", would mix children of different language backgrounds and ages together, and would forbid teaching any subject (including reading and writing) in a language other than English; and

8. The proposed AZ Unz initiative would be even more restrictive than the earlier California Unz initiative. Although in theory the AZ Unz initiative would allow parents to request waivers, in practice it would be almost impossible to get such waivers approved; and

9. Complying with all requirements for requesting waivers would still not ensure that parents could have their child placed in a bilingual program; and

10. Parents or legal guardians opposing bilingual education would be given "legal standing" to sue school officials who refuse to implement the AZ Unz initiative. Those officials could be found personally liable for fees and damages, immediately removed from office, and barred from public school authority for five years; and

11. This initiative is intended to implement the ideology of the "English Only" movement; it is meant to restrict students, despite their parents' wishes, to one ideologically approved language development program; and

12. The Navajo Nation experienced almost a hundred years of "English Only" education between the late 1860's and the late 1960's. Only with the inclusion of some Navajo language and culture in the schools did more Navajo students begin to succeed. Good Navajo-and-English bilingual education programs can and do work; and

13. Less than half of Navajo students now enter school speaking any Navajo. The Navajo Education Policies, 10 N.N.C. §101 et. seq., call for instruction in Navajo (and English) at all grades in all Navajo schools. Passage of the AZ Unz initiative would place Arizona Navajo public schools in a difficult position between conflicting Arizona and Navajo Nation laws; and

14. The proponents of this initiative have stated that children are now being placed and retained in bilingual programs against their parents' wishes. Existing state and federal law already prohibits this. But they are intent on placing students in "structured /sheltered English immersion" programs, whether or not their parents want them in such programs; and

15. The Navajo Nation is much more concerned about the continuing loss of the Navajo language and the relative lack of quality Navajo and English bilingual education programs. These ideological attacks on bilingual education are understood as attacks on the rights of Navajo children and Navajo parents, and on the future of the Navajo language and way of life; and

16. The Education Committee of the Navajo Nation Council by resolution ECJY 74-99 (attached as Exhibit "C") has recommended that the Navajo Nation Council strongly oppose the AZ Unz initiative and direct the Education Committee and the Division of Diné Education to inform and educate Navajo schools, parents, and voters of the contents and consequences of this initiative.


1. The Navajo Nation Council reaffirms the Nation's policies for Navajo language instruction for all students in all grades in Navajo schools.

2. The Navajo Nation Council reaffirms the Nation's opposition to "English Only" legislation as constituting threats to Navajo children and their parents.

3. The Navajo Nation Council states its strong opposition to the proposed Arizona "English Language Education for Children in Public Schools" initiative.

4. The Navajo Nation Council directs the Education Committee and the Division of Dine Education to inform and educate Navajo schools, parents, and voters about the contents and consequences of this proposed initiative.


I hereby certify that the foregoing resolution was duly considered by the Navajo Nation Council at a duly called meeting in Window Rock, Navajo Nation, (Arizona), at which a quorum was present and that the same was adopted by a vote of 64 in favor, 0 opposed, and 0 abstained, this 20th day of July, 1999.

Edward T. Begay, Speaker
Navajo Nation Council

Council Slams Door on "English Only"
    Navajo Times, 22 July 1999