Who will be the president?

  WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation presidents have been playing musical chairs for the past six months, and it's not over yet.

After President Albert Hale resigned last February to avoid charges that he'd accepted gifts or loans from companies doing business with the tribe, his replacement was Vice President Thomas Atcitty. Atcitty lasted only until July 23, the day the Navajo Nation Council voted 46-28 to dismiss him. Urging his ouster was the tribe's Ethics and Rules Committee, which agreed 4-1 that Atcitty had accepted gifts from uranium, coal, gas and other companies doing business with the tribe.

After Atcitty was removed from office, the council made Speaker Kelsey Begaye interim president in lieu of Vice President Milton Bluehouse. Navajo law requires that an elected official move up to president, and Bluehouse had been an appointee. Twenty-four hours later, however, the council waived its law and made Bluehouse president. That action dumbfounded Navajo Times editor Tom Arviso.

"The process that made Bluehouse president was not right and left a sour taste in my mouth," Arviso said. "It shows that tribal law needs to be refined and enforced."

A formal complaint against Bluehouse's appointment as president has been filed by a former chairman of the tribe's election board. Meanwhile, a primary election for the job of tribal president has been set for Aug. 25. At this point the ballot will list eight names, including Begaye's, but not the name of Bluehouse since he had not declared his candidacy. Bluehouse is now searching for ways to get on the ballot.

"The idea of (Bluehouse) jumping into the race at this point is totally ridiculous," Arviso says, "and he wants to use Atcitty's signatures." - Stan Bindell