Social Organization. There was no ranking in traditional Navajo society; social obligations were determined entirely by kinship and residence. Both men and women had fairly specific, lifelong obligations toward the family into which they were born as well as toward the family into which they were married. The father in each household was the recognized household head, and the father in the oldest household was the headman of each residence group, with considerable authority over the allocation of labor and resources among all the members of the group. The status of women was notably high.
Political Organization. There was no system of formal authority among the Navajo except that embodied in kinship relationships. In the preservation period, however, the Population was divided into a number of localized bands, and each of these had its recognized leader, although he had no coercive powers. In the reservation period, the organization into bands disappeared, but respected singers (medicine men) may act informally as local community leaders and as arbitrators of disputes. Political organization of the tribe as a whole was instituted only in 1923 and is modeled on the Institutions of European and American parliamentary democracy rather than on aboriginal tradition. There is a tribal chairman and a vice chairman, elected by reservationwide popular ballot for four-year terms, a Tribal Council made up of elected delegates from each of about one hundred local "chapters," and an Executive Committee elected by the Members of the council. In most parts of the reservation there are also locally elected chapter officers who attend to the political needs of the local community.
Social Control. The principal mechanism for the maintenance of order has always been the concept of collective responsibility, which makes all members of a family, or even of a clan, responsible for the good behavior of any individual member. Maintaining the good name of the family or clan within the community is an important consideration for all Navajo. In addition, the accusation of witchcraft was likely to be directed against persons who were considered to be "bad characters"; this in effect defined them as public enemies.
Conflict. Conflict between individuals or families might arise for a variety of reasons. Disputes over the possession of farmland and disputes arising from poor marital relations were especially common in earlier times. All infractions Except incest and witchcraft were treated as private wrongs, to be settled by negotiation between the kin groups involved. Locally respected medicine men might be called upon to arbitrate or advise in these disputes. There is, in addition, a System of Navajo Tribal Courts and a code of offenses adopted by the Navajo Tribal Council, but most Navajo still prefer to settle disputes without recourse to these institutions.