Lilakai Julian Neil

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Lilakai (Lily) Julian Neil
Tribe First woman elected to the Navajo Tribal Council
Born 1900
Crownpoint, New Mexico
Nickname(s) Lily Neil, Lilly Neil, Lilly Neill

Lilakai (Lily) Julian Neil, in 1946, was the first woman elected to the Navajo Tribal Council. After a serious automobile accident, she was forced to withdraw from public service.[1]

In September 1947, Lily wrote a letter to Mr. Beatty, the General Director of Indian Education for the Education Division of the Department of the Interior.[2] In her letter she was critical of the double bind placed upon the Navajo residents in the chapter that she represented (Delegate to the Navajo Nation Tribal Council, district 19). On the one hand the government encouraged the Navajos to get education so that they could get better employment and become self-sufficient. On the other hand, the government neglected agreements to supply adequate education and schools placed roadblocks to Navajos getting the necessary education.

She points out that in the period after World War “when the (US) government is making all these big loans to foreign countries… Who tried to ruin us…, it seems as if they would try to do something for their poor little neglected children or wards at home who they made treaties with but most of them were never kept…”.[3]

This portion of the letter was cited by other authors to emphasize the mood of the Native Americans about post war race relations [4] and proposals to improve economic status of the Navajo Nation by dividing into four parts corresponding to the separate boundaries in the four states of the Four Corners.[5]

Lily also testified in hearings about the immunity of Indian territories from state jurisdiction and the tribal self-determination policy of the twentieth century [6]

Lily is also associated with the founding of La Vida Mission, a Seventh-day Adventist mission center for the Navajo Nation in Farmington, New Mexico. A church at the mission, “Lily Neil Memorial Chapel”, is named in her honor.[7]


  1. ^ Carolyn Neithammer, Keeping the Rope Straight, 2006, Salina Bookshelf, Inc. Page 38
  2. ^ Quoted in full in Peter Iverson, For Our Navajo People: Dine Letters, Speeches, and Petitions: 1900-1960, University of New Mexico Press, 2002, Pages 104-105
  3. ^ Peter Iverson, 2002, page 105
  4. ^ Paul C. Rosier, Serving their Country: American Indian politics and patriotism in the Twentieth Century, 2009, Harvard University Press
  5. ^ Michelle Nicerson and Darren Dochuck, Sunbelt Rising: the politics of place, space and region, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011
  6. ^ WILLIAMS V. LEE AND THE DEBATE OVER INDIAN EQUALITY, Michigan Law Review, Vol. 1091, Page 1490
  7. ^ La Vida Mission History