The town of Kayenta is located in the north-central region of the Navajo Nation. As the gateway to scenic Monument Valley and other important Southwestern Native sites, the area attracts thousands of visitors each year. Yet despite its prime location, the Navajo community in Kayenta has long been unable to act upon the promise of tourism-related development: Non-Navajos own more than half of the businesses in the area, and the Indian unemployment rate hovers near 50 percent.
As early as 1970, community members recognized that many of their economic problems could be attributed to a lack of local control over administrative powers that, used strategically, could promote appropriate development. These powers were held by the Navajo Nation central government, which is headquartered about 150 miles away in Window Rock, Arizona. The central government was responsible for all decisions involving infrastructure development, land use and zoning, housing, business development, taxation, bond issues, public safety, and even recreation