Diné College, ASU launch BA in Navajo Law program

By Patrick Blackwater

In an unprecedented collaboration, Diné College and Arizona State University (ASU) have unveiled plans for a Bachelor of Arts in Navajo Law program, a groundbreaking initiative aimed at fostering legal expertise within the Navajo Nation. Led by Patrick Blackwater, dean of the School of Business and Social Sciences at Diné College, and advocated by Stacy Leeds, dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, this initiative was approved by the Dine College Board of Regents during its May 3 board meeting.

“The inception of the BA in Navajo Law program predates the pandemic, born out of the pressing need for legal professionals deeply versed in Navajo fundamental law, federal and state statutes, and Navajo Nation legal frameworks,” explained Dean Blackwater. “This program is meticulously crafted to furnish students with a holistic comprehension of legal fundamentals, empowering them to pursue impactful careers as legal scholars, advocates, policymakers, and educators within the legal sphere.”

Diné College President Charles “Monty” Roessel underscored the program’s dedication to justice and sovereignty, affirming, “Our mission is to furnish students not only with theoretical knowledge but also with the practical acumen to effectively apply laws and legal processes within the Navajo Nation and beyond. This program serves as a beacon of hope, a testament to our steadfast commitment to advancing justice and sovereignty through education.”

The curriculum is structured to encompass diverse facets of the legal system, spanning regulations, policy formulation, the judicial framework, and both formal and informal legal methodologies. The program distinguishes itself by offering students immersive, hands-on learning experiences, emphasizing the practical application of laws and the nuanced navigation of legal landscapes.

“With the creation of the BA in Navajo Law, Diné College has taken a monumental step toward educating legal professionals who will address access to justice issues on the Navajo Nation and beyond,” stated Leeds. “ASU Law looks forward to working with Diné College and the Navajo Nation to accomplish our shared goals of creating more advocates, lawyers and leaders uniquely equipped to preserve and advance Diné laws and legal systems.”

This alliance between Diné College and ASU heralds a significant milestone in legal education. It is poised to elevate the legal ecosystem within the Navajo Nation by cultivating a new cadre of legal professionals equipped with the knowledge and competencies requisite for driving substantive change.

For further details about the BA in Navajo Law program and enrollment inquiries, interested individuals are encouraged to reach out to Diné College’s Office of Admissions.

This article originally appeared here. This press release was written in collaboration with ASU Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law. 



Patrick Blackwater

is dean of business and social science at Diné College.