FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. When the Navajo Nation Council met for its fall session, it had a whole new set of eyes watching. From behind their computers, people around the country were listening as tribal lawmakers discussed a tax measure, adding land to the reservation and their fondness for rock music.
The live Internet broadcast of the quarterly sessions is the councils latest attempt at transparency. There was praise for the effort to better involve Navajos in their government, and there was criticism online for things that only people who visited the council chambers in Window Rock previously could see.
While Navajos have commented freely on the workings of the Tribal Council on social-media sites, the platform used to broadcast the sessions allows people to make immediate remarks alongside the video.
It wasnt long before lawmakers characterized the critical comments as trash-talking, and two of them wrote a letter to a Navajo government worker accusing him of misusing tribal resources to post his opinions on Facebook.
The worker, Julius Elwood, said he was exercising free speech during a break from his job at the Navajo Occupational Safety and Health Administration on his own equipment when he wrote about the pettiness of the council and how it fumbled over amendments. Elwood, who is outspoken about the tribal government, boiled down the lawmakers concerns to a fear of social media and technology.
They dont understand how it works, he said. For them to be so thin-skinned is surprising.
The Navajo Nation does not have a social-media policy, and not all lawmakers embrace sites like Facebook and Twitter. Council Speaker Johnny Naize referred to tweets as tweaks during last months session, and delegate Edmund Yazzie quipped that he doesnt have Facebook or tweeting or Tweety Bird. I know who roadrunner is.
Some delegates thought the live stream was on Facebook or YouTube when it was on UStream.