New Mexico Town Is on Indian Land, and in Limbo
By Michael Janofsky, New York Times
April 11, 2002
TAOS, N.M., April 11 — Early last year, the local police arrested Del E. Romero, a member of the Taos Pueblo, on charge of aggravated battery after a man was severely beaten in a parking lot here. On probation at the time, Mr. Romero was sent to jail.
But he was lucky the incident happened where it did.
A state judge dismissed the charge last month because of customs and laws, originating with the king of Spain in the 1500’s, that have preserved certain lands throughout the southwestern United States as “Indian country,” no matter where they are or who owns the buildings on them.
Until the judge, Peggy J. Nelson, ruled, few people in Taos knew that half the town, including the parking lot where the incident occurred, is on Indian land, part of a grant to indigenous people by Spain that was upheld by Mexico after it won independence in 1821, and by the United States after New Mexico became a territory in 1853 and a state in 1912.
Indian lands, even if not connected to a reservation, are sovereign, like foreign countries, and only tribal and federal authorities have the right to arrest and prosecute American Indians accused of committing crimes on them. Courts in other states, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Florida, have upheld the standard in similar cases.
Now Mr. Romero, 32, is free, and many Taos residents are wondering what impact Judge Nelson’s ruling will have on this famous art community of 6,000. Already, limited resources prevent federal and tribal authorities from pursuing every criminal case on Indian land, and now fears are mounting that state and local authorities may be less aggressive, knowing that a defense lawyer can raise the issue of venue and have the case thrown out.
Reflecting on Judge Nelson’s ruling, Chief Neil W. Curran of the Taos Police Department, said, “Once it becomes common knowledge, and you’re a Native American inclined to become involved with something like shoplifting, you’ll know to do it in Indian country.”
The implications of the ruling were not lost on Judge Nelson. In a letter explaining how history and cases elsewhere influenced her decision, she told Mr. Romero’s public defender, Alan Maestas, and the local district attorney’s office that Congress needed to clarify issues of jurisdiction over all Indian lands.
For now, the matter is in the courts. The state has appealed the ruling to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, and each side expects the loser to petition the state Supreme Court to hear the case. Eventually, it may go to the United States Supreme Court, which some legal experts say has eroded tribal authority.
Speaking last week in Albuquerque at the Federal Bar Association’s annual conference on Indian law, Senior Judge William C. Canby Jr. of the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco said this is “a terrible time for tribes to find themselves in court, especially the Supreme Court.”
Representative Tom Udall, a Democrat whose district includes Taos, said Congress had not examined the issues. But until it does, Mr. Udall said, he urges local, state and federal law enforcement officials to define their responsibilities for the sake of “comfort in the community.”
Chief Curran said that after Judge Nelson ruled, Mayor Frederick A. Peralta and Town Attorney Tomas Benavidez told him to respond to crimes as if nothing had changed.
But the larger concern, Chief Curran said, is how the police will handle a case, and already there are uncertainties. Despite telling the force’s 17 officers that their work will proceed as usual, Chief Curran said an officer responding to an assault last Sunday night called him at home to ask if he should investigate what happened.
“So it has already caused problems,” Chief Curran said. “The officer had to call me for direction.”
Beyond that, residents who live or work in the north side of town, which includes the historic square, galleries and hotels, said they wonder what may happen with the crimes like shoplifting or drunken driving that tribal authorities and agents from the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Indian Affairs judge not worth pursuing.
Felonies are prosecuted by the federal government. Norm Cairns, an assistant United States attorney for New Mexico, said his office had also prosecuted some misdemeanors. But in the case of other offenses, Mr. Cairns said, “logistics, manpower and resources have to be taken into consideration.”
Senior officials with the Taos Pueblo declined to comment, pending final review of Judge Nelson’s ruling. A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Nedra Darling, did not respond to requests for information.
To Chief Curran and the local district attorney, Donald Gallegos, any problems in the short term can be addressed by deputizing police and sheriff’s department officers as federal agents, something Mr. Udall said could be done without Congressional involvement. Meanwhile, Chief Curran said, “We have encouraged the United States attorney to prosecute the Romero case.”
All that brings little solace to people like Mike Neglia, whose father owns the Taos General Store, which faces the parking lot where Mr. Romero is accused of beating a man.
“It’s very concerning,” he said of uncertainties about law enforcement response. “We have just two middle-aged ladies working here. It would be easy for a couple of guys to take what they want and leave. We could call the cops. But then what?”
Pueblo Group Wants Change In Traditional Government
by The Associated Press
January 8, 2002
Taos, N.M. (AP) – A Taos Pueblo group is challenging the pueblo’s traditional form of government, in which a council of about 55 men installs a new pueblo governor and administrator each year.
“We’re not here to be disrespectful or interrupt our government,” said John Suazo, president of a pueblo watchdog group called Residents in Support of Education. “But our government hasn’t been functioning as it has in the past.”
Taos Pueblo administrators, who took office earlier this week, were in a meeting Thursday and did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Critics say the oral traditions that govern the pueblo are not keeping pace with the responsibilities of operating the pueblo’s casino near a bustling resort community.
Suazo and other members of the group say voting by all tribal members is the surest way to make sure revenue from the casino and admission to the scenic pueblo is not misspent.
Pueblo member Gladys Kozoll said during a meeting last week that it’s also time for women, who hold no seats on the Tribal Council, to have a say.
“We don’t get listened to; we don’t get elected to office,” said Kozoll, who compared that to women under the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
The effort to bring universal suffrage to tribal politics is complicated by the fact tribal officers are important religious and ceremonial leaders and must be qualified as such.
Tribal Council member Frederick Lujan, who supports pueblowide voting, said the religious aspects of the office should be maintained, but that administrative duties should be in writing.
“We need something we can look in black and white at,” Lujan said.
Frederick Lujan Sr., one of a handful of elders who nominate candidates for governor for council vote, said through a translator last week he did not believe the time had come for pueblowide voting.
“My dad is saying let’s not vote,” the younger Lujan said. “But (the council) has got to understand what the outside people are talking about.”
Jicarilla Apaches Want Majority-Indian State District
By Barry Massey, The Associated Press
August 23, 2001
SANTA ANA PUEBLO — The Jicarilla Apache Nation asked legislators Thursday to place the tribe’s large reservation in northern New Mexico in a House district in which Indians account for a majority of the population.
“The Jicarilla Apache Nation will not be able to elect a representative of our choice, or receive the representation we need in Santa Fe, unless we are placed in a majority Native American House district,” said Carson Vicenti, legislative counsel for the tribe.
In testimony to the Legislature’s interim Redistricting Committee, Vicenti warned that failure to make the requested changes in district boundaries could expose the state to a legal challenge for possible violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
Other tribal leaders also urged lawmakers not to dilute the voting strength of Indians when they draw new boundaries for congressional, legislative and other political districts.
The committee will recommend redistricting proposals for the Legislature to consider during a special session that begins Sept. 4. Lawmakers met Thursday at Santa Ana Pueblo in hopes of attracting comments from tribal leaders about redistricting concerns.
Indians account for 9.5 percent of the state’s population.
Currently, the Jicarilla reservation is in House District 3 in northwestern New Mexico, which includes Aztec as well Bloomfield in the Farmington area. Rep. Sandra Townsend, R-Aztec, represents the district.
Indians account for about 17 percent of the district’s population, according to figures from the 2000 census. Nearly three of five people in the district are white non-Hispanics. Hispanics make up about 23 percent of the population.
In the Senate, the Jicarilla Nation currently is in a “majority-minority” district in which Indians account for nearly 60 percent of the population. Sen. Leonard Tsosie, D-Crownpoint, a Navajo, represents that district.
“Once the Legislature starts, we know that we can go to Senator Tsosie with legislation that concerns Native Americans and he will both introduce it and champion it,” Vicenti said. “Unfortunately, we have not received the same support on the House side.”
During the last session, Vicenti said, Jicarillas turned to an Indian member in the House, Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, to introduce a tax measure sought by the tribe.
Vicenti suggested lawmakers draw boundaries of Madalena’s House District 65 to include the Jicarilla Nation.
“The voting patterns of Native Americans show that they are politically cohesive,” said Vicenti. “They vote for the same candidates — candidates that understand issues of concern to Indian nations and pueblos.”
He also said voting patterns show that “when they can, whites bloc-vote against Native American candidates.”
Townsend, in an interview, said most redistricting proposals before the committee would move the Jicarilla Nation out of her district. She did not object to that. Vicenti opposed one proposal that would shift the Jicarillas into a heavily Hispanic district.
Tesuque Pueblo Gov. Charles Dorame asked lawmakers to consolidate pueblos in northern New Mexico in one Senate district rather than splitting them between districts as occurred during the last redistricting 10 years ago. He also urged placing the northern pueblos together in regional districts for Congress, state Board of Education and the Public Regulation Commission.
Dorame, chairman of a council representing eight pueblos in northern New Mexico, said Indians are becoming a bigger force in elections by increasing their voter registration.
“We may not have the numbers, but we do make a difference in elections,” Dorame said. “We hope to strengthen our numbers in the voting polls. You will see us more often at the polls.”
Laguna Pueblo Gov. Harry Early said the Legislature should create more House districts in which Indians account for a majority of the population. Currently, there are five such districts, and three Indians serve in the 70-seat House. There are two Indians serving in the 42-member Senate.
“This committee has obligations under the Voting Rights Act to draw additional majority-minority districts favoring Native Americans,” Early said. “However, I believe your obligation is of a higher order. Your inspiration . . . should flow from your political and moral obligation to the Indian citizens of this state.”
The hearing offered the public a first look at options for redrawing boundaries of House and Senate districts in the Albuquerque area. Population growth patterns over the past decade make the metropolitan area one of the main battlegrounds of redistricting because it’s quite possible that House or Senate incumbents could be forced to run for re-election against one another.
One proposal places Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, in the district currently represented by Sen. Shannon Robinson, D-Albuquerque. The two earlier this year were on opposite sides of a fight among Senate Democrats that ousted Sen. Manny Aragon from his longtime position as Senate president.
Court Ruling Could Affect Tribal-State Authority in Parts of New Mexico
Santa Fe New Mexican 2001
The Associated Press
April 12, 2001
SANTA FE (AP) – The state could face new limits on prosecuting major crimes in areas near tribal lands under a recent Court of Appeals ruling involving a member of the Navajo Nation, who is in prison for killing six people in a 1994 highway crash near Nageezi.
Attorney General Patricia Madrid’s office disagrees with the ruling and will ask the state Supreme Court to review the case because of its potential effect on the legal authority of the state in areas of mixed lands, such as in the northwestern New Mexico where there is a “checkerboard” of tribal, state, federal and private lands.
The ruling, which was issued late last month, prompted a lengthy dissenting opinion from Chief Judge Richard C. Bosson, who said the decision “only adds to the confusion surrounding the state’s criminal jurisdiction to prosecute felonies in a sizeable area of our state.”
“In my judgment, the majority opinion portends an undesirable turn in the development of New Mexico law regarding state and tribal jurisdictional conflicts,” Bosson wrote.
The ruling marks the second time in four years that the Court of Appeals has ordered a district judge to reconsider whether the state or the federal government, which prosecutes major crimes for tribal governments, had jurisdiction to bring charges against Travis Frank.
Frank, 25, was convicted of six counts of vehicular homicide. His truck veered across the center line on state Route 550, formerly N.M. 44, and hit a car on May 21, 1994. Killed were five members of one family and Frank’s stepfather.
Frank had a blood-alcohol level of 0.22 percent – above New Mexico’s 0.08 percent for legally presumed intoxication. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison and is being held in the north unit at the Penitentiary of New Mexico outside of Santa Fe.
The Appeals Court, in a 2-1 split decision, said District Judge Joseph Rich used an incorrect legal analysis in determining whether the accident occurred in “Indian country” within the meaning of federal law. The court ordered the case back to Rich to make additional findings.
The site of the accident was on federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The Nageezi Chapter house of the Navajo Nation is about 4 1/2 miles away.
Frank contends the area is a “dependent Indian community” and argues the state doesn’t have authority to prosecute him.
The Appeals Court said the district judge failed to make the proper legal analysis and ordered Rich to follow an approach mapped out by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in decisions last year and in 1999. The judge must initially consider the accident site within the context of the surrounding area and determine a “community of reference.”
“The purpose of locating an appropriate community of reference … is to identify the land at issue and, in doing so, attempt to identify the community, if any, most affected by an action. If the community is a ‘dependent Indian community,’ then we owe due deference to tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction,” said the court’s majority in an opinion written by Judge Lynn Pickard and concurred in by Judge M. Christina Armijo.
Bosson said the court’s majority had wrongly interpreted a 1998 U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving the meaning of “Indian country.” He said the initial question was whether the area of the accident was a “federal set-aside for the use of Indians as Indian lands.” Rich correctly decided it was not and the state had jurisdiction, Bosson said.
Under the court’s majority ruling, Bosson said, Rich must “perform a kind of sociological expedition in search of a ‘community of reference.'”
Artie Pepin, director of criminal appeals in the attorney general’s office, said the court’s majority ruling would make it more difficult to determine whether the state could prosecute some felonies cases.
Laurel Knowles, the assistant public defender who handled the Frank case, said “I don’t necessarily see a major impact” from the ruling. Questions of conflicting tribal-state jurisdiction have always been complex and potentially time-consuming, she said.
Bosson said the federal appeals court test cited by the majority decision involved regulatory matters – not a criminal case – and was the “wrong model for New Mexico to define state jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed outside tribal boundaries.”
“Much of the checkerboard area of northwestern New Mexico may be regarded, depending on the observer’s point of view, as within the overall ambit of a tribal chapter or a similar political subdivision,” Bosson wrote.
“If that is now to be the limit on state jurisdiction to prosecute, then the majority opinion marks a radical shift from precedent. To my knowledge, no New Mexico appellate case has ever limited a state prosecution unless the crime was in fact committed on land that was either within tribal or pueblo boundaries, or an Indian allotment, or on land that was actually set aside for the benefit of a tribe or pueblo and its members.”
In 1997, the Court of Appeals returned the case to Rich for a similar determination of whether the state had the authority to prosecute Frank. Rich again concluded the state had jurisdiction and that decision prompted the late ruling by appeals court.
Council Discussing Indian School Site
By Dan McKay, Albuquerque Journal
March 19, 2001
A neighborhood group and a corporation representing New Mexico’s 19 Indian pueblos are working on revisions to a proposed agreement that would guide development at the old Albuquerque Indian School property. The proposed agreement — sponsored by City Councilor Vince Griego — is scheduled for action at a council meeting today. If approved by the city, the agreement would be sent to the pueblos for consideration.
The 50-year agreement would require that any development at the Indian School site on Menaul NW be subject to the city’s land-use rules. The city would provide water, sewer and other services to the property, which is surrounded by city land.
But a citizens group — Neighbors for Rational Development — says the proposal is ambiguous and might be difficult to enforce.
Pete Robinson, the group’s president, also said he hopes councilors will amend the proposal to make clear that a casino isn’t appropriate for the 44-acre site.
“In general, we’re pleased with the progress,” Robinson said Friday, “but I wouldn’t say we’re at a final resolution of some of the issues.”
The Indian Pueblos Federal Development Corp. also is urging councilors to amend the proposed agreement. Darrell Felipe, the corporation’s chief executive officer, said he prefers to shorten the agreement to about 15 years.
The corporation also wants to exempt federal office buildings from the city’s land-use rules, Felipe said. Those buildings are subject to federal regulations anyway, he said.
Offices for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Services are planned, Felipe said, as well as a hotel and performing arts center.
And there’s no realistic chance of a casino at the site, Felipe said. Two nearby pueblos that already have casinos would never agree to put a competing one in Albuquerque, he said.
The old Albuquerque Indian School campus — which is at Menaul and 12th NW — has been vacant since the early 1980s, when the All Indian Pueblo Council closed it.
City officials say the development agreement is needed to give surrounding neighborhoods an idea of what to expect at the site.
The City Council is scheduled to meet today at 5 p.m. in the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Center, One Civic Plaza.
Gambling Riches Give Indian Tribes New Clout
By Tatsha Robertson, Globe Staff
October 20, 2000
PUEBLO OF SANDIA RESERVATION – When Stuwart Paisano leaves his office in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains to visit Capitol Hill, he flies first class. He can walk right in to meet his representatives and urge them to preserve the mountains or fight a growing anticasino sentiment.
The face-to-face contact available to Paisano, the 28-year-old governor of New Mexico’s smallest Native American tribe, was unheard of when his father was the leader of the tribe, which was so poor that children swam in ditches.
”He was frustrated with the way the political world worked, that you had to give something to get something,” Paisano said of his father.
Through the years, however, small tribes like the Sandias – whose numbers, unlike African-American and Latino communities, are too small to make a difference at the polls – gained riches from casino ventures and have become top political donors. What they once lacked in numbers, tribal leaders said, they have made up for with their checkbooks.
New Mexico’s 10 gaming tribes, like the Sandia and Santa Ana, have become symbols of a wave of Native American power players in a political game from which they had once been excluded.
”The only kind of influence Indians had before was the guilt factor,” said David Bositis, senior political analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. ”Now they have money, and last I checked, money makes politicians pay attention.”
This election year, campaign finance watchers say, tribes nationwide may give up to three times the $2 million in unregulated ”soft-money” contributions they made in the last presidential election year. The Sandia tribe, with fewer than 500 members, has already made donations to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s US Senate race in New York, and the House minority leader, Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri. By November, said Paisano, his tribe’s contributions could total $100,000.
Such donations are being matched in other states. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors campaign spending, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in Connecticut has given $119,000 since last year, while the Seminole Tribe in Florida has given $285,000 in combined soft money and political action committee contributions to both parties.
In California, a recent report by Common Cause said Indian tribes ”emerged from political obscurity to become the largest political donors in the state.” The tribes have spent more than $8.5 million between 1994 to 1999 in statewide political contributions, exceeding major special-interest contributors such as attorneys and teachers, according to figures compiled by Common Cause.
”You know the old saying `money talks?’ It really does,” said Paisano. ”When you dish out money, people come lining up.”
Tribal leaders say donating money to politicians has enabled American Indians, who make up 1 percent of the US population, to launch expensive fights for such things as achieving the ”compacts” between the state and tribes that set the terms needed to run casinos.
Critics, however, say the tribes’ practice of spending money on high-powered lobbyists has not only created tension between themselves and the government, but symbolized what’s wrong with campaign financing.
”They [Indians] get their way in the legislature, they throw their weight around, and have all the politicians scared,” said Dr. Guy Clark, an Albuquerque dentist who leads antigambling interests in New Mexico. ”So what you have is the Democrats and the Republican leaders saying Indian contributions are fine and both parties promoting casino gambling in the state.”
The controversy surrounding the growing political power of New Mexican Indian tribes is mirrored in other states such as California, said Clark.
But nowhere has the issue of Indian contributions been so tense and contentious as in New Mexico.
Indians here are placing big bets on the reelection campaigns of legislators, who are paid only per diems, as well as judges and other top policymakers who will decide on tribal land issues and the fate of casino gambling, observers said.
In 1994, a federal appeals court upheld the tribes’ right to run casino gambling in New Mexico. During that time, Indians around the country had to solidify political alliances with both Republican and Democrat legislators, because of a federal law that required the tribes and the state to reach compacts before starting gaming operations.
Local residents here point to Governor Gary Johnson’s relationship with tribes as a prime example of how they have benefited by pouring money into political campaigns. Johnson, who received nearly $240,000 in Indian casino contributions in 1994, supported casino gambling, unlike his Democratic opponent.
Johnson’s supporters said Indian tribes decided to support him only after they heard his position on sovereignty. ”He [Johnson] didn’t change his positions for them,” said Diane Kinderwater, press secretary for governor’s office.
Since Johnson approved the compacts allowing the tribes to do business, said Clark, the Republicans who were previously against casino gambling are now big supporters of it, and they have benefited from the tribe’s financial support.
Now, Tribes in New Mexico want the Legislature to change a 1997 law that requires Indians to give 16 percent, or nearly $50 million annually, of their casino proceeds to the state.
Critics said the Indians have been so aggressive in lobbying legislators about the 1997 law that the effort has backfired, and some politicians are beginning to vote against the tribes.
Last January, the issue of whether the gaming industry should make donations to legislators who are deciding the fate of casino gambling came to a boiling point: Legislators were meeting to discuss whether to accept a gaming plan negotiated by Johnson and Indian leaders when a lobbyist for a local Indian tribe began handing out contributions to legislators, said state Senator John Arthur Smith.
”It wasn’t coincidental, but set by design,” said Smith, a Republican who said he doesn’t accept contributions.
Most of the money the tribe makes from the casino, said Sandia tribal leaders, is poured back into the community’s education and health-care system.
Not far from the Sandia reservation sits a 27-hole golf course owned by the Santa Ana tribe. The course has become a favorite fund-raising site for local politicians, said Bruce Sanchez, former governor of the Santa Ana Tribe.
”We are only doing what the mainstream has done for hundreds of years,” Sanchez said.
Globe Newspaper Company.
Indians, Gov’t Fight Over Mountain
By Matt Kelley, Associated Press Writer
September 28, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) – A 252-year-old land grant from the king of Spain is at the heart of a court case pitting a New Mexico Indian tribe against the federal government over ownership of a mountain.
The Sandia Pueblo consider Sandia Mountain their holiest place, while the federal government wants to maintain control of one of the state’s most popular recreation areas. Included in the mix are the non-Indians who live on the mountain’s slopes, which provide a spectacular backdrop for some homes on the outskirts of Albuquerque.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear arguments in the case Friday.
“That mountain is our church, and for it to be developed, for it to be destroyed with the amount of traffic, litter and so forth that’s being done up there … it’s like desecrating a church,” tribal Gov. Stuwart Paisano said. “Our main goal is to protect it and preserve it from any future development and any future destruction.”
The mountain, which borders the Pueblo reservation, is part of the Cibola National Forest and is home to an aerial tramway and popular trail to the 10,600-foot summit that is crowded with hikers most days.
The Indians say a 1748 land grant from the Spanish king extends the tribal border to the summit. Federal officials say the Indians’ land stops at the top of the mountain’s first foothill, meaning the federal government owns most of the mountain.
A federal judge sided with the tribe in 1998, saying Sandia Pueblo is the rightful owner of 9,890 acres on Sandia Mountain’s west face. The federal government and private landowners challenged the ruling, setting up Friday’s hearing.
For centuries, members of the Sandia Pueblo have gone to the mountain to pray, visit religious shrines and collect plants and other items for religious ceremonies. Tribal council member Frank Paisano, 55, remembers going on mountain pilgrimages with his grandfather during the 1950s, before Albuquerque had grown to the edge of their reservation.
“Because of the influx and the intrusion from the outside world, it has made it very difficult for us to continue (to worship) in our private way,” said Paisano, father of the current tribal governor.
The 500-member tribe worries about damage from the heavy use of the national forest and is upset the Forest Service requires permits for tribal members to collect plants.
The governor and other Pueblo officials say they don’t want to close the mountain to non-Indians, but they oppose any new recreation or development.
Tribal officials also are concerned about development of private parcels within the national forest. Two private tracts on the mountainside have been turned into neighborhoods with pricey homes.
The tribe’s lawsuit, however, seeks to reclaim only the federal land on the mountainside.
The homeowners do not want to be surrounded by Indian land because that could mean they would be taxed by the tribe and live under the jurisdiction of tribal courts, said Tom Bartman, their lawyer.
Pueblo officials note that courts repeatedly have ruled tribes have no authority to tax land owned by non-Indians, even if the land is inside reservation boundaries.
The New Mexico Farm Bureau passed the following resolution in November: “We request that the legislature of the State of New Mexico, the President and Congress of the United States be urged to guarantee all United States civil and constitutional rights to all citizens living, working or doing business on land that is part of an Indian Reservation.”
The Navajo tribe is considering its options following a decision of a federal appeals court that the tribe cannot discriminate against a member of another tribe over jobs with private companies. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Harold Dawavendewa, a Hopi man who claimed that he was unfairly discriminated against when the Salt River Project, under a contract with the Navajos, refused to interview him for a job despite the fact that he tested higher than most of the Navajos who applied. The court ruled that the Navajo Preference in Employment Law was wrongfully applied in this case. Judge Stephen Reinhard wrote in the opinion that: “The purpose of the Indian Preferences exemption [from federal employment discrimination laws] is to authorize an employer to grant preferences to all Indians (who live on or near a reservation) to permit the favoring of Indians over non-Indians. The exemption is not designed to permit employers to favor members of one Indian tribe over another, let alone to favor them over all other Indians.”
Three tribes (Acoma Pueblo, Jicarilla Apache, and Taos Pueblo) have asked to be included in binding arbitration between the State of New Mexico and the Mescalero Apache Tribe. The arbitration is set to settle a dispute the tribe has regarding revenue sharing as part of its Class III gaming compact. Despite the fact that all four tribes signed compacts which stipulated revenue sharing at a set percentage of slot machine profits, they have all withheld all or significant portions of the payments.
City of Albuquerque
The City of Albuquerque is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case, which claims that Isleta Pueblo’s environmental standards for water discharge into the Rio Grande are too stringent. Isleta Pueblo Tribe was granted the status of a state under the Clean Water Act by EPA in 1992, so now all upstream governments must meet the water standards set by them. Albuquerque claims that the standard set by Isleta for arsenic is too harsh and will cost the city $300 million to build an arsenic removal plant. The city is also asking the court to consider whether the pueblo has jurisdiction outside the pueblo boundaries.
Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, during meetings with New Mexico tribal leaders earlier this year, stated that he “didn’t understand the concept of tribal sovereignty.” A short time later, at a meeting of the National Congress of American Indians, former Navajo tribe president Albert Hale called for a one-day blockade of all state and federal highways running through “Indian country.” According to Hale’s spokesman, the suggestion was met with a rousing ovation. Hale suggested the one-day closure to “show we are sovereign nations and we control our land. It’s a way to educate the rest of America about our sovereign rights.” Hale said that, short of a blockade, tribes could decide to charge tolls at their borders or require “transit visas” to cross reservation lands. Hale’s proposal ignited public outrage in the Southwest, although the New Mexico state government’s response was that if the blockade did occur, the State would “try to negotiate with the Navajos.” A few weeks after his blockade proposal, Hale resigned his presidency to avoid being indicted for illegally charging $52,000 worth of personal expenses to a tribal credit card.