Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

Isleta Politics and Religion

On June 24, 2016, the Isleta Tribal Council made a decision involving Odelia Jojola (Ms. Jojola) and the Laguna Medicine Clan. Jennifer Jojola represented her mother Odelia Jojola. I, (Chris Abeita), represented the Laguna Medicine Clan (Clan). Denise Zuni represented the Isleta Pueblo Housing Authority (IPHA).

Ms. Jojola inherited a home next to the small plaza. The small plaza is a sacred area and the Laguna Medicine Clan has an obligation to protect this area. This has been their traditional obligation since time immemorial.

The Isleta Tribal Council decided to build Ms. Jojola a new home at no charge. So, Ms. Jojola will soon get a new home for free.

According to the plans, the size of the new home will be much larger than the original home. This means that Ms. Jojola will need to park her cars in the small plaza. This is the problem because the small plaza is sacred and cars should not be parked in the plaza on a permanent basis.

According to Ms. Jojola’s documents, she claimed that the area near the home construction did not have any cultural significance to our Tribe.

The Isleta Cultural Committee reviewed and approved the plans for the home construction. The Cultural Committee also decided that this area did not have any cultural significance to our Pueblo. The Cultural Committee is responsible for advising the Council and Governor about customs and traditions.

Governor Eddie Paul Torres, the Council and the IPHA did not bother to notify the Laguna Medicine Clan about the construction in this sacred area. Instead, the Clan learned about the project when the IPHA began construction.

This forced the Clan to file a request for a temporary restraining order to stop the construction because the home was extending beyond its original location. The Court granted the request temporarily until it had the chance to conduct a hearing. Eventually, the Council decided that it had the power to hear the case because the Constitution states:

“. . . the powers of the Council shall include the following:

To regulate trade, inheritance of personal property, land assignments, and private dealings in pueblo land among members within the pueblo. Article V, Section 2(k)

To otherwise manage and control the lands and resources of the pueblo for the best interest of the pueblo. Article V, Section 2(l).”

The Council went to the small plaza twice to view the area of construction. The Council also requested the parties to submit documents explaining their concerns. The Council then issued its decision on June 24, 2016.

The Council decided that the IPHA could build the home in the same location where the original home previously stood. This would allow Ms. Jojola to get her new home and she would be able to park her car within the boundary of her land assignment. This would prevent the problem of Ms. Jojola having to park her car in the small plaza.  

The Council also decided that the northern boundary of the land assignment would be moved southward by 550.692 square feet. This was done because the northern boundary protruded into the small plaza. The Council also decided to pay Ms. Jojola thousands of dollars because the northern boundary would be moved. The exact amount of money is unknown because the Council decided to keep that secret.

However, Jennifer Jojola and her mother did not like the decision. So, they went to the traditional religious leaders to complain. The religious leaders decided to help Ms. Jojola. They called for a meeting with the Tribal Council to fight on behalf of Ms. Jojola.

Randy Jiron, the War Captain, did not ask the Laguna Medicine Clan to attend the meeting. He did not even bother to inform the Clan about the meeting. So, there was no one there to speak on behalf of the Laguna Medicine Clan. Why did Randy Jiron decide not to include the Laguna Medicine Clan? How can that be fair?

At the meeting, the religious leaders lectured the Council. They demanded that the Council reverse the decision and tear up the paper. They did this without even reading the paper to understand the decision. How can that be wise?

Thereafter, on November 9, 2016, President Verna Teller held a secret meeting with the Council. The Council decided to reverse its decision. The Council directed Governor Eddie Paul Torres to inform the Laguna Medicine Clan that it was reversing its decision.

Approximately two weeks have now passed and Governor Eddie Paul Torres has not yet notified the Laguna Medicine Clan of the Council’s decision. Why?

Why has the Council failed to officially notify the Clan?

What kind of precedent is this Council setting for our Tribe by flip flopping in its decisions?

Our Tribe chose to live by a Constitution to ensure that all of our people are treated fairly and equally. Yet, this is not happening under the current leadership of the Council. Why?

It appears that this Council reversed its decision to get themselves reelected into office. They did not care about fairness because they did not bother to give the Laguna Medicine Clan any chance to respond to the claims of the religious leaders.

These are the current Council Members who are running for office once again.

Verna Teller,
Ulysses Abeita,
Frank Lujan,
Michael Allen Lente, &
Fernando Abeita.

Why did they fail to give the Laguna Medicine Clan a chance to respond to the claims of the religious leaders?




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