Diné

From Anarchy In Action

The Diné (Navajo) nation has traditions of anti-authoritarian living that continue to inform present-day radical and anarchist currents. In the words of Diné matriarch Roberta Blackgoat, "This land is a sacred land. The man’s law is not our law. Nature, food and the way we live is our law."[1]

Diné Anarchist-led projects today include the K’é Info shop[2] and Táala Hooghan infoshop.[3]


Culture

Perhaps the core value in Dine culture is hózhó, meaning harmony with existence. Other key values include T’áá ni’ínít’éego t’éiyá, meaning autonomy, and Nahasdzáán dóó Yádiłhił Bitsąądęę Beenahaz’áanii, meaning the natural order of Mother Earth and Father Sky.[4]

The concept of k’é encompasses a mutual aid with other each other and with human and nonhuman neighbors, according to the Diné Anarchists Brandon Benallie, Radmilla Cody, and Kauy Bahe:

Anthropologists often describe k’é as the Navajo kinship system, but Benallie and Bahe told me it’s much more than that. “It’s our theory of everything,” Benallie said. “It’s our string theory. It’s how we’re connected to everything—but specifically how that kinship is reciprocated and maintained.”

K’é “is this huge overlapping philosophy that the whole universe is interconnected,” Bahe explained. “But it’s also these relationships that we have with one another and with the elements that exist in the world, whether that be the weather or the water or the animals.”

[...] Benallie said his grandfather always told him, “We are all given unique gifts and abilities, and we must do what we can to provide for others with our unique gifts and abilities.”

He added that at the time, “we didn’t know it as mutual aid, that was just k’é.”[5]

Decisions

Prior to the forced establishment of reservations, the Diné did not have hierarchical governance. Benallie describes traditional Diné political structure as anarchist:

“Being Diné could be considered anarchist because we never had chiefs; we didn’t have a hierarchy. It was always horizontal,” Benallie said. “Communism and anarchism derived ideology from Franciscan missionaries who came here in the 1500s and 1600s and studied Indigenous societies. And you have Engels, Marx, and Bakunin reading the journals of these religious figures and how these religious figures describe Indigenous societies at that time.”

Benallie argues that Navajo kinship began to break down as the tribe tried to negotiate with the United States government. “The first version of the Navajo Nation government was called the Navajo business council,” he said. “It was formed primarily to facilitate the signing of oil and gas leases, and coal leases, in the 1920s.”

Once horizontal, Benallie said, Navajo society became patriarchal and hierarchical—and that structure facilitated the destruction of land and water for resource extraction.[6]

Also emphasizing Dine tradition's anti-authoritarianism, Klee Benally writes that the

"Naat’aáni (the one who speaks) have been misinterpreted by colonial anthropologists as 'leaders' of Diné yet their role, as those responsible for the medicine bundles for their families, was ceremonial and not absolute or coercive. This way of being is incompatible with any form of centralized governance. It is incoherent to the State."[7]

Environment

Diné culture is built around the concept of hózhó or harmony with existence including human and nonhuman nature. Klee Benally explains that the dine have a covenant with nature:

"For Diné, our lives are guided in relation to six sacred mountains that are the pillars of our cosmology. Each of these mountains is adorned in sacred elements and presents a teaching of how we maintain and restore harmony as we exist in this world. Through our ceremonies and prayers we maintain a living covenant (physically maintained as Dził Leezh or mountain soil bundles) to exist in harmony with nature."[8]

Crime

Robert Yazzie, former Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, describes the Diné approach to peacemaking:

The first order of business the relatives would do in the peacemaking process is to get to the bottom of a problem. In court, I would sue you for battery and the state would say we have to prove all the elements of a crime and use the rules or the law to prove that you are guilty… that’s beside the point. What matters here is: why did this act happen in the first place? There’s a reason why the harm has occurred. Let’s deal with that. Maybe we have a history of problems between the two of us. If we can get to the bottom of a problem, all the other stuff will fall into place. The damage can be acknowledged by you, and I can go away happy from the process, knowing that you say that you’re not going to do it again.[9]

K’é Infoshop

An Anarchist organization located on the Navajo Nation reservation in "Arizona," the K’é Infoshop engages in mutual aid activities. In 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were "supplying elders, families, and the immunocompromised with food and medical supplies."[10] Their website's donation page is here: [2]


  1. Klee Benally, "Unknowable: Against an Indigenous Anarchist Theory," Indigenous Action, 1 January 2022, https://www.indigenousaction.org/unknowable-against-an-indigenous-anarchist-theory-zine/.
  2. [1]
  3. http://www.taalahooghan.org/supportdonate/
  4. Benally, "Unknowable."
  5. Cecilia Nowell, "In the Navajo Nation, Anarchism Has Indigenous Roots," The Nation, 25 September 2020, https://www.thenation.com/article/activism/anarchism-navajo-aid/.
  6. Nowell, "In the Navajo Nation."
  7. Benally, "Unknowable."
  8. Benally, "Unknowable."
  9. Mumia Abu-Jamal and Angela Y. Davis, "Alternatives to the Present System of Capitalist Injustice," Feminist Wire, 20 January 2014, https://thefeministwire.com/2014/01/alternatives-to-the-present-system-of-capitalist-injustice/.
  10. Nowell, "In the Navajo Nation."