The Different Types of Government and The Vote

byKimberly Jim


“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade. Where I choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself, and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty.” -Chief Joseph, Nez Perce I believe this quote above goes well with the idea of the inequality of the voting rights issues that the United States had to go through to give the right to vote to all. As I type that last sentence, I ponder the question “Is there still inequality in voting for some people?”

There will be two different focuses in this lesson.

  1. What kind of government do we have not only in the United States but also the government we have on the Navajo Reservation?
  2. The history of voting and the inequality that took place in the United States. I will be using the history of the way Native Americans faced inequality in voting on and off the reservations they live on. Also touching on the fact that in our previous history Native Americans did not have the right to vote and were considered non-citizens for quite a while in our United States history.

This curriculum is created for elementary kids. First graders around the age of six and 6 and 7-year-old children. Just how much do children know and understand about the government and voting in the United States. When it comes to teaching the history of voting rights within the United States history’s we need to be mindful about the way we teach a lesson about the inequality that existed in our past and in ways still in the present today. What is a democracy? How has it shaped the United States into what it is today? What does the right to vote have to do with democracy? Was the right vote, fair to everyone regardless of gender or race? What is the history of voting for Native Americans? What does voting look like on the Navajo Reservation? How did people of different races overcome the right to vote? What do people vote for? What branches of government does the United States have?  These are some of the questions that will help guide the curriculum.  

Was voting ever a fair and equal process? Were all people allowed to vote? This part of the lesson would introduce students to the idea about fairness and the right to vote. With the idea that not all kids are aware that racism played a huge part in voting in the United States this lesson would be a sensitive talk. In this lesson, I will introduce the idea that not all people or races or gender were allowed to vote. I will use this lesson to talk about how Native Americans long ago were not allowed to vote because of their race. Also to take look at how in some ways there is still discrimination when it comes to being able to vote on some reservation.

In this curriculum, you will not only be presented with United States history but also the history of the government with the perspective of tribal governments.


“My children, education is the ladder. Tell our people to take it.” -Chief Manuelito a well-known leader has stated that saying before his passing in 1893 and taking those words to heart the Navajo people continued to look forward to a life of educating the future generation with not only surrounding the kids with a pre-kindergarten program but also elementary, junior highs, and high school institutions there was also the creation of higher education. Dine College, a college that is the well-known landmark of Tsaile, Arizona. A college established in 1968 which was the first tribally owned college of its time. 1 A college where many come to continue their education on or near the Navajo Reservation. Tsaile, Arizona has a population of over 1300 people, 1042 of that number are of Native American background. The Navajo people make up the majority of that number. Some statistics: 200 are Anglo, 25 are of African American, 7 are Asian, and 34 are of other races. The city of Tsaile has a functioning hospital that takes care of basic needs from treating the common cold, getting an eye exam, and some dental work is done. Tsaile, Arizona is made up of 42.2% English speaking individuals, and 54.4% of Navajo speaking citizens that speak both languages of English and Navajo. However, the older Navajos speak limited English. Tsaile Public School is located on the Navajo Reservation in the Chuska mountain area of Arizona. A mountain that divides Arizona and New Mexico. Within the area of the mountains where camping and fishing are optional for many residents. Tsaile Lake which is located in walking distance from the Dine College. Another popular lake near Tsaile is a lake called Wheatfields Lake.

A town called Farmington, New Mexico is located 86 miles northeast of Tsaile where the people of Tsaile and surrounding areas go and travel to get to the nearest Target, Walmart, or to get a sense of the bigger city life. Some go to watch a movie or to have a nice dinner. Another town is Gallup, New Mexico which is a good 77 miles drive east of Tsaile which also has the amenities for basic needs for a household and more. These are a long drive, however, living on the reservation for so many years the drive time for people becomes a normal weekend drive to go shopping.  However, for some basic needs like groceries and a few household materials that can be obtained without the long drive can be made daily if needed is to a city called Chinle, Arizona. A small town that is the center of the Navajo Nation. This city is located south of Tsaile and is a 25 miles drive. Chinle, Arizona is the home of the famous Canyon De Chelly where many tourists come to see many monuments and beautiful canyon views. You would never guess but Canyon De Chelly has an outlook and hiking path located at The Whitehouse Overlook where you can see ruins of the ancient Anasazi homes.

Chinle is where all the resources are, that citizens need to obtain a sustainable type of life. The hospital, police station, Bashas the local food store, ACE hardware store. In a sense, Chinle is the business type of town.

Chinle, Arizona is where the district office if located for our school district. From Chinle to Tsaile is a good 30-40 minute drive. Tsaile Public School is one of seven schools under Chinle Unified School district. Five out of the seven are elementary schools. Chinle Unified School district has two Junior High schools and one high school. Tsaile Public school is unique in its’ own way. Tsaile school teaches pre-school, first through fifth grade, and also includes middle school from grades sixth to eighth grade. All grades are taught essentially in the same building with an annex building that houses the third graders on their own. The school has the technology needed for each grade level. Each grade level is provided with either laptops or classroom set of iPad to meet the needs of twenty first century learner.   The children who attend Tsaile Public school are of Navajo descent with a small population of non-Native kids. There are 435 students enrolled at Tsaile Public School. It is a school where the Navajo culture is largely practiced from the Navajo language present in the hallway to the traditional outfits worn sporadically throughout the week. It is a school where some teachers wear their traditional hair bun, the tsiyeel which in Navajo culture the hair is where all your knowledge is. The saying goes when you tie your hair up in that hair bun you keep your knowledge safe and close to you. The Tsiyeel has a strong presence in the school building with both male and females proudly wearing their hair tied up. The sight of Native American jewelry mostly turquoise and beaded jewels are seen down every hall and in every classroom.



The idea of government is not something that is had without the word Democracy. For children who live on the reservation, they will learn about both the United States government and their local government. The word “Democracy” is a term that needs to be understood to understand the type of government we have. Democracy is the type of government that is formed that gives power to the people. It provides the opportunity for the following: Effective participation, Equality in voting, Gaining enlightened understanding, Exercising final control over the agenda, Inclusion of adults. 2 Democracy is a type of government that was built to give the people a voice. Where all have a way of making their views known, everyone has vote, have the opportunity to learn about the policies and what some different alternatives are and what are some consequences of those policies, everyone has the opportunity to have their matters put onto an agenda to be heard, any adult has the full rights of citizens.

Foundational history of the government.

To design, a democratic government and students need to know the history of how the idea came to mind. Putting a Native American perspective to the idea of democracy and how the United States government was set up goes back to the Iroquoian League of Nations. It was a nation formed by six different tribes coming together to live in an environment where each tribe had a voice and they had leadership presented to create a union that embodied democracy. Benjamin Franklin has stated that the idea of federal government stems off the idea of how the league was set up to where there was some kind of central type of government. With this idea comes the set-up of our United States Government. In the United States, we have three forms of government that help in making decisions for the people. The Legislative Branch, the Execute Branch, and the Judicial Branch. Also, in government, we have representatives that are elected to speak for a group of people or in government each state. Iroquoian League of Nations influenced the structure of the United States government. Benjamin Franklin introduced the ideas of the League and how they in a way govern their people so that all these tribes can live in an area where each tribe has a representative to go to the meetings to determine outcomes of propositions made by each tribe. Whether or not they will go to war with another tribe or what will happen in their area.

The Iroquoian League of Nations had a similar type of union. The union consisted of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora who called themselves the Haudenosaunee or better known as “The People of the Long House”. These tribes each selected one person to represent each tribe. The Long House was broken into two houses- the Older brothers (Mohawk and Seneca) and the Younger brothers (Oneida and Cayuga). Before the Tuscarora were part of the league the Onondaga representative would be the deciding vote if both parties did not agree. However, if both parties agreed but the Onondaga didn’t agree the subject would be discussed again and if the decision were still made in the same manner then the Onondaga would be overruled. 3The statement can be made “How many of you in here know that the United States government was influenced by a group of Eastern Native Americans and how the government is set up ties to the idea of a group of six different tribes who worked together to keep peace and function together to live together in a place where every tribe had a voice”. Having a type of government where the voices come from the people and have their voices heard is the kind of government the United States had put in place to eventually come up with a US Constitution.

Types of governments with the United States government.

Legislative Branch- Make the law, this is set up by two houses (The senate and the House)

Senate: the people who the state elects to speak for the people (comparable to the Iroquoian League of Nation)

Executive Branch- enforce the laws being made (Our United States president is part of this branch)

The Judicial Branch- interprets the law (The Supreme Court and the local courts)

  • These three branches have to work together to make sure we who live the United States are protected by the law and that they have to same rights as their fellow citizens.

Native Americans in Arizona

The United States has well over 560 tribes within the Nation that have been recognized by the government. Of that 560 number, in the state of Arizona, 21 federally recognized tribes are in existence today. The reservation land combined of all these states makes up more than one-third of the state of Arizona. The Ak Chin, Cocopah, Colorado River Indians, Fort McDowell Yavapai, Fort Mojave Indian tribe, Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma, Gila River, Havasupai, Hope, Hualapai, Kaibab Band of Paiute, Navajo, Pascua Yaqui, Salt River Pima-Maricopa, San Carlos Apache, San Juan Southern Paiute, Tohono O’odham, Tonto Apache, White Mountain Apache, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Yavapai-Prescott Tribe. 4

These tribes, if not all have their type of government where elected people represent their tribes and their tribes' interest on a local level, state level, and national level. Just like voting for a United States representative the Native American in their own government have elections and campaigning that they do in order to win a position.

Navajo Nation

“Indian tribes have the inherent right to self -government.” 5

The Navajo Nation is one of the largest Indian reservations in the United States. A reservation is a piece of land that has been set aside by the federal government for the use and benefit of one or more tribes. 6 Navajo land also is known as the Navajo Reservation, but to many, it is their Dine Bikeyah (Navajo Land) sits on 17,544,500 acres of land that touches in four different states Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. With a population of more than 250,000 people who are registered individuals with enrolled Certificate of Indian Blood census numbers are recognized as Navajo descent. The Navajo people are one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States that are federally recognized in the state of Arizona and by the Government of the United States. What is unique about the Navajo Nation is the fact that the Hopi reservation is embedded into the land and the Navajo reservation surrounds Hope land. The Hopi themselves do not have the same government as the Navajo people. They have their own government and representatives.

Great example of how the Navajo nation government and the Hopi are different is the Hopi have nine self-governing villages where they decided what is best for their own village. 7 The Navajo Nation has one government that looks out for the whole Navajo Nation.

Navajo Nation Government

Before the Navajo Nation had a government, they had Natural Communities made up of local bands of people who were from families or communities. They gathered at regional meetings to discuss harvest and wartime issues. The last known meeting of these 24 different headmen, made up of twelve peacemakers and twelve war leaders were in 1858 before the Navajos endured the Long Walk to Hweeldi (Bosque Redondo). In June of 1868, the Navajo people were able to leave Bosque Redondo and return to their land between the four sacred mountains, Mount Hesperus to the north, Blanca Peak to the east, Mount Taylor to the south, and the San Francisco Peaks to the west.

With the signing of treaties done by the government there are eight criteria’s of the type of authority a tribe has, the right to form a government, decide to gets tribe membership, regulate land, regulate individual land, exercise criminal justice, exercise civil justice, regulate domestic disputes, and the right to engage in and regulate commerce and trade. 8

The Navajo Nation had a discovery in the 1920s. That discovery was oil! The oil discovery is what kick-started the need for a Tribal government for the federal government to lease land for the exploration of oil on Navajo Land in 1923. As large as the Navajo Reservation is the land is divided up into chapters. There is a total of one hundred ten chapters on the Navajo reservation. A total of 88 council delegates, these are individuals who represent a region of the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation capital is located in a place called Window Rock, Arizona where all meetings take place and where the President of the Navajo Nation has his office. In Window Rock, Arizona it sits close to the New Mexico border.  It wasn’t until the year 1991 that the Navajo Nation government adopted the three branches of government, the Executive, the Legislative, the Judicial branch to help govern the Navajo people.

Navajo Nation President

The Navajo Nation president is and has always been a male figure. The Navajo people come from a strong traditional heritage where they believe that a woman cannot and will not be a leader of the Nation. There have been attempts where women have run for the presidency of the Navajo Nation, but those attempts were unsuccessful. However, women do serve in other areas of the Navajo Nation government.

A story about voting on the Reservation

When talking to a member of the Navajo tribe, Paul told a story about how his chapter used to vote back in the day of when he was a young boy. When Paul was a child he remembers going to the chapter house, a place where people gathered to discuss business about their community. Paul stated that he went with his mother to this chapter house because they were selecting a new chapter president. There were two candidates there and they gave their reasons why they should be the chapter president of that chapter in Round Rock, Arizona. Each of those chapter presidents was elected to represent those chapters at the meetings that are held in Window Rock, Arizona. When the two candidates are done they are led outside and then people are told, “If you want this person (the name of one candidate) stand on the north side of the building and if you want (the name of one candidate) stand on the south side of the building and if you don’t know who you want to vote for stand by the fireplace by the door.” No one ever stood by the fireplace. Once it was known who won the people come back together and the candidates were brought back in and it was announced who has won. This was how the voting was done on a community type election of a leader. This is not like how it is today when people anonymously vote for their leaders.

Voting on the Reservation

Just like any other minority group in the United States history Native Americans have had to fight the fight to vote. For many years Native Americans were considered non-citizens in their states because they lived on reservation land. 9 For years people fought to keep the right to vote away from the Native American people by using different laws and different policies. Just as every minority group has done the Native American people have fought to have the right to vote. The Navajo Reservation extends into four different states and therefore it extends into six different counties. Those counties in Arizona are Apache county, Navajo county, and Coconino county. In New Mexico, the counties are San Juan county and McKinley county. The last county is in the state of Utah and that is also part of San Juan county but in the Utah state.

State Supreme Courts

Native Americans who live on reservations are considered under federal guardianship. This is another barrier that prevented Native Americans from being able to vote.

State Taxes and Local Taxes

One argument that kept the right to vote out the grasp on Native Americans was the idea that because Native Americans lived on reservations they did not have the right to vote because on reservations Native American did not pay taxes to the state. Allegedly, this meant that they did not have the right to vote on policies off the reservations that are to be made about state policies. However, in many different states, Native people do travel off reservations and pay taxes for off-reservation businesses. 

Literacy Test to Vote

Literacy tests to be able to vote were often put in place to be as barriers for minority voters in the United States. This test just did not just prevent people from voting in the eastern or southern states but took effect in other places. This test also affected the people who lived on the reservation. Not only was the test administered by white people but there was a language barrier involved. It wasn’t until 1965 when this practice was banned and this alone opened up voting for people of different minorities.

Teaching Strategies

Think Pair Share

The strategy can be used to open up that conversation between students. The teacher can pose a question, students will think in their head about their answer. Share their thoughts with their partner and be able to share their ideas or their partner's ideas with the class.

Compare and Contrast

This strategy is used to look at the difference and the similarity between two items. In this curriculum, it will the difference or similarity of the Navajo Nation government and the United States government.

Compare and contrast how voting was conducted years ago and how it is conducted in todays society.


The use of technology in the classroom is a great way to visually show students an idea. The use of Brainpop can be used to show the different types of governments in the United States. Various kid-friendly YouTube videos can be found.


The use of the practice is also a great strategy that can be used. Where students can practice voting in a classroom setting. During this time a teaching moment may occur when a vote does not go the way some may have wanted it to go.


Margraf, Rory.  I Know My Rights: A Children's Guide to the Bill of Rights and Individual Liberty is a book that can be used to introduce the rights that citizens of the United States have in a kid-friendly way.

Stier, Catherine. Today on Election Day is a great book to helps students understand the process of voting.

Stier, Catherine. If I were President is a great book to get kids to think about the responsibilities of the president. A great activity for this book is to have the students think about the ideas if they were the president. What would they do, or what laws would they make? How would the White House look like?

Cronin, Doreen. Duck for President would be a good read for kids to understand how an election happens for a candidate.

Classroom Activities

Day 1- Teacher can start by posing the following question:

What is a government?

Who is part of the government?

Why do we have a government?

What would happen if we didn’t have a government?

How do we elect people to represent a job in the government?

Students will use this time to think pair and share their ideas and thoughts that go along with the question. The use of technology can be used for this activity, for example, Brainpop is a great resource as far as fun videos to show kid-friendly understanding. 

On this day the students will decide as a class the type of jobs our classroom community should have.

For example: A door holder, line leader, teacher assistance, material person, technology person, table captains, classroom librarians, and the caboose.

The class will go through what they think each job should consist of. For example the door holder should always open the door and close the door, how should the line leader lead the line, perhaps the discussion of does the teacher assistant and the material person have the same kind of job? Should the class eliminate one job and make it into one. The teacher can lead these discussions to have kids think about the kind of jobs and the kind of responsibilities it entitles.

Pose the question, how should we decide which student will do what job? Should we vote? Or have the teacher pull sticks with names.

Day 2- On this day students will be introduced to the three governments the United States has. The executive, legislative, and judicial branch. Students can visually use YouTube channels or Brainpop videos to give an idea. The use of a foldable or a tree map can be used.

Legislative Branch- Make the law, this is set up by two houses (The senate and the House)

Senate: the people who the state elects to speak for the people (comparable to the Iroquoian League of Nation)

Executive Branch- enforce the laws being made (Our United States president is part of this branch)

The Judicial Branch- interprets the law (The Supreme Court and the local courts)

  • These three branches have to work together to make sure we who live the United States are protected by the law and that they have to same rights as their fellow citizens.

Day 3- Students will be introduced to the Navajo Government and the roles the people play in it.

On this day the question can be asked, “Do you know who your tribal president is?” this will give the teacher an idea of what the kids know and not know of who governs them and their family in a government setting.

Talk about how many chapters there on the reservation and who takes part in the meetings that go on in the Navajo Nation.

Showing of a map broken down in chapters will help to visually explain the boundaries and just how big the Navajo Reservation is.

Day 4- Students will use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two governments.

On this day students with the help of the teacher will compare and contrast the roles of the United States president and the Tribal president. The two government, what is the same and what is different?

Day 5- On this day the teacher will go over all the information that was handed out during the week to wrap up the government lesson. On this day the teacher will check for understanding.

By having several think pair share discussions.

Day 6- On this day students will be asked the question: What does voting mean? The teacher will ask the students to think about the question, then have the students talk to their partner to discuss what they think the term is, then the teacher can bring everyone together and have a classroom discussion about the term voting. Taking the ideas from the students and writing the ideas down. Teacher and students will make a list of things people can vote on. What kind of things can students in the classroom vote on?

Day 7- On this day the teacher will talk about how in our history voting was not always fair between people. Using kid-friendly terms the teacher will talk about how the fact about your skin color or the kind of person you are, you may not have had the right to vote. Classroom activity will be the idea of we are going to vote on the kind of movie we want to watch on a Friday movie day. The thing about that was when we are about to get to vote one table has a circle underneath taped and that table didn't get to vote because they are the ones left out. In doing this activity it is important to play in the accounts of feelings. The teacher will bring the class around and we will talk about the activity together. This will give an understanding of how it was.

Day 8- The teacher will pose the question: Do you think we should have a classroom president? Yes or no? Then we can discuss why or why not we should have one, then to further their thinking the question of what the class presidents job is can be discussed.

Bibliography (Benjamin Franklin stating government)

Prescott E. Bloom. "Legislative Oversight: A Response to Citizens' Demands and Needs." State & Local Government Review 16, no. 1 (1984): 34-38.

Carter, Nancy Carol. "Race and Power Politics as Aspects of Federal Guardianship over American Indians: Land-Related Cases, 1887-1924." American Indian Law Review 4, no. 2 (1976): 197-248. doi:10.2307/20067991.

Berman, David R., and Tanis J. Salant. "Minority Representation, Resistance, and Public Policy: The Navajos and the Counties." Publius 28, no. 4 (1998): 83-104.

Kates, Susan. "Literacy, Voting Rights, and the Citizenship Schools in the South, 1957-1970." College Composition and Communication 57, no. 3 (2006): 479-502.

Pevar, Stephen L. The Rights of American Indians and Their Tribes. New York: Puffin Books, 1997.


Social Studies

1.C1.1 Apply values of respect, responsibility, equality, and fairness as a member of a community

1.H4.1 Explain and explore the origins of key American symbols, documents, landmarks, holidays, and leaders as well as their importance from the past to the present in our country. • Leaders include but are not limited to local and/or Tribal leaders, state leaders, and national leaders.

1.C3.3 Explain how community groups work to accomplish common tasks and fulfill responsibilities. • Such as voting, volunteering, community clean-up or recycling campaigns, community fundraising for disaster relief, and becoming informed on current issues.

1.C3.2 Explain the role and function of local governments. • Key functions include but are not limited to make laws, carry out laws, enforce laws, manage conflicts, and protect the community. • Key concepts include but are not limited to the type of government and its leaders including the current Governor and President and Vice President.

• Key concepts include but are not limited to the type of government and its leaders including the current Governor and President and Vice President.


1.W.03 Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.


  2. Pevar, Stephen L. The Rights of American Indians and Their Tribes. New York: Puffin Books, 1997.
  3. Carter, Nancy Carol. "Race and Power Politics as Aspects of Federal Guardianship over American Indians: Land-Related Cases, 1887-1924." American Indian Law Review4, no. 2 (1976): 197-248. doi:10.2307/20067991.
  4. Pevar, Stephen L. The Rights of American Indians and Their Tribes. New York: Puffin Books, 1997. Pg 350
  5. iBid., p 82
  6. iBid., p 81
  7. iBid, p 85
  8. iBid., p 84
  9. Berman, David R., and Tanis J. Salant. "Minority Representation, Resistance, and Public Policy: The Navajos and the Counties." Publius28, no. 4 (1998): 83-104

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