Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

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Lowering the Blood Quantum

All officials present.

Meeting started at 9:07 a.m.


Governor Eddie Paul Torres informed Council that Carolyn Dailey, Director of Isleta Social Services, was present and she would provide a report on the Isleta Social Services Department.

Governor Torres informed Council that Olin Calderon, Human Resources Director, resigned Friday (April 5, 2013). Torres stated, “Olin decided to move on in his career.” The Governor accepted his resignation. The Governor did not provide any other details.

Secretary Verna Teller stated to Governor Torres, “Yesterday, I asked you what’s going on and you looked at me and said, “I have no idea.”” Teller said, “That was very rude of you and I didn’t appreciate that you lied to me.”

Governor Torres immediately apologized to Teller. Torres stated, “I just wanted to give the report to the entire Council at the same time.”

There was no further discussion of this issue and no one on the Council asked any other questions.


Carolyn Dailey, Director of Isleta Social Services, informed Council that she has 8 approved positions within her department and that 6 of the positions are filled. One of the vacancies is for a social worker and the other is for a financial eligibility worker. Daily explained that she cannot fill the vacancies due to budget constraints.

*** Council member Fernando Abeita left the meeting at 9:15 a.m.

Vice-President Michael Allen Lente asked whether she receives supplemental funding from the Tribe. Ms. Daily said no. Social Services will not be able to fill the vacancies unless the Tribe approves supplemental funding.

Secretary Verna Teller suggested that Dailey submit a proposal to the Council for funding. Teller stated Social Services is a critical department because it is responsible for protecting children and elderly. They are the most vulnerable members of the community. She stated, “We need to fill the vacancies and that it would be in the best interests of the community to fund those positions.”

Council member Josephine Padilla asked Dailey whether she had taken care of the problems that were identified in an audit report of the program. Ms. Dailey stated that the problems were taken care of and that a report was provided to former Governor Robert Benevides on such matter.

Council member Barbara Sanchez suggested that the Council reschedule a meeting with Social Services at a later date. Sanchez stated that there were many questions concerning a 2008 Audit Report on Social Services and that more time was needed to discuss the corrective action taken to address the problems.

Council member Larry Jaramillo requested Dailey to provide a breakdown of the types of problems our community is facing and for her to make recommendations on how the Council could take action to correct the problems.


Lt. Governor Isidor Abeita presented a Home Site Development Application for Jessica Jiron. The Council, by motion, unanimously approved the application. 11 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining.

*** I left the meeting at 10:12 a.m.
*** I returned to the meeting at 11:25 a.m.


Tribal Attorney, Pablo Padilla, was providing a report to the Council about research he performed concerning grandparent rights. The Council intends on amending the Children’s Code to include provisions defining the rights of grandparents.

Padilla stated that he “scoured” the laws of other Indian Tribes to see how they addressed the issue of grandparent rights. He also said that he researched New Mexico laws and the laws of other States on the matter.

Secretary Verna Teller interrupted Padilla. She commented that, Isleta is a sovereign and that the Council could establish its own laws on grandparent rights.

Council member Barbara Sanchez made a motion to assign the responsibility for developing amendments to the Children’s Code to the Law and Order Committee concerning grandparent rights and to include a flow chart of the steps to be taken on how to enforce grandparent rights. The Law and Order Committee is to report back to the Council in one month on the matter. The motion carried 11 in favor, 0 opposed and 1 abstaining. (Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero abstained).

Terry Lente, a tribal member attending the meeting, asked whether the Law and Order Committee meeting would be open to the public. Joseph “Cougar” Lucero, Chairman of the Law and Order Committee stated, “I don’t see a problem with that as long as they don’t throw a monkey wrench into the process.”

*** The Council broke for lunch at 12:04 p.m.
*** The Council resumed their meeting at 1:09 p.m.

All Council members present.
All Governors absent.


Tribal Attorney, Pablo Padilla, informed Council that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) will provide direct funding to the American Indian Law Center (AILC) for the Southwest Indian Tribal Court of Appeals (SWITCA). Previously, the BIA was going to fund the SWITCA by using Isleta as a flow through entity or agent. This is no longer necessary and the BIA is going to provide direct funding to the AILC for SWITCA.


The discussion of SWITCA prompted Council member Barbara Sanchez to ask the Council whether the Tribe was still going to investigate the possibility of using SWITCA as the Tribe’s Appellate Court.

*** All Governor’s arrived at 1:14 p.m.

As discussed at a prior meeting, some Council members are unhappy with the Isleta Appellate Court because the Appellate Court is failing to render timely decisions on appeal cases. Some appeal cases have been pending for several years and there is a significant backlog of cases. Some Council members want to replace all of the current Appellate Justices and others would like to replace only some of the Justices.

According to Pablo Padilla, the SWITCA will typically render a decision within one to three months on a case.

SWITCA serves as an appellate court for various Indian tribes that grant SWITCA the authority to serve as their appellate court. The judges that serve on SWITCA are attorneys from various Indian tribes. The SWITCA will base their decisions on the laws of the Tribe that they are serving.

Council member Barbara Sanchez requested President James Abeita to require Chief Justice William Johnson to provide the Council with a report on the total number of cases pending appeal, the categories or topics of the cases, and how long the cases have been pending. This will allow the Council to get an idea of what is outstanding, which will enable the Council to decide whether they should use SWITCA.

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo stated, “We need to appoint appellate judges, we keep putting this on the backburner.”

The Council decided that they will wait for Chief Justice Johnson to provide his report before they take any action.


Tribal Attorney, Pablo Padilla, asked the Council whether they wanted to have a “Regulatory Agency” or “Commissioners” to regulate the Casino.

A “Regulatory Agency” means one person will serve as a Director of the Agency while Commissioners typically means that there will be a group of persons sharing responsibility for enforcement of gaming regulations.

Padilla reminded the Council that attorney Carolyn Abeita provided a memorandum analyzing the pros and cons of each type of entity.

Council member Fernando Abeita stated that Patrick Sanchez, Executive Director, of the Isleta Gaming Regulatory Agency (IGRA) wanted an opportunity to meet with the Council. Sanchez wants to provide “in depth” information to the Council on how the Agency works. He would also like to have key employees from the Agency explain what they do.

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo stated, “I don’t feel we have good communication with Sanchez. He has nothing to offer, whenever, we have a casino meeting.”

Council member Barbara Sanchez stated, “This is another topic where we’ve been going around and around and around in circles. As Fernando is suggesting, let’s have Sanchez come in and give a report.”


Tribal member Raymond Jojola requested that the Pueblo place his land into trust status. Attorney, Pablo Padilla, stated that Jojola needs to give the deed for his land to the Tribe and then the Tribe can request the Federal Government to place the land into trust.

The Council, by motion, unanimously authorized Padilla to initiate the process of placing Jojola’s land into trust status. 12 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstaining.


Judy Abeita from the Isleta Business Corporation (IBC) submitted a written request on behalf of Chip Martin, Chief Executive Officer of the IBC to obtain Council Resolution # 2006-112. This resolution concerns land the Pueblo set aside for economic development. The land lies south of I-25.

Council member Barbara Sanchez made the motion to approve release of the requested resolution # 2006-112 to Judy Abeita. Council member Phillip Jiron seconded the motion. The motion carried 9 in favor, 2 opposed and 1 abstaining. Secretary Verna Teller and Council member Douglas Jiron opposed the motion. Council member Larry Jaramillo abstained.

Secretary Teller stated she is not opposed to releasing the resolution. She stated, “I’m opposed on how we need to vote on the release of this information that should be public information.”

Council member Douglas Jiron explained that he had a problem with “giving everything to the IBC and we aren’t getting nothing from the IBC.”

Vice-President Michael Allen Lente agreed with Jiron.

Council member Barbara Sanchez stated, “This is just a release of information, a resolution. It has nothing to do with whether you support IBC or not.”


Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero made a travel request. Lucero wants to attend the “Developing Tribal Energy Resources and Economies Conference” at the Sandia Casino. The conference is set for June 10-12. The cost is $ 395 if registration occurs before May 1st and $ 495 thereafter. Lucero asked the Council to approve his request for himself and members of the Council’s Alternative Energy Committee. Lucero is the Chairman of the committee. Council members Juan Rey Abeita and Douglas Jiron are also on the committee.

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo made a motion to allow the Alternative Energy Committee and anyone else on the Council who is interested to attend. Council member Phillip Jiron seconded the motion. The motion carried 9 in favor, 0 opposed and 3 abstaining. Council members Douglas Jiron, Juan Rey Abeita and Joseph “Cougar” Lucero abstained.


Council member Douglas Jiron reported that there was a serious traffic problem on Highway 47. He said, South bound traffic cannot turn into Chical Haystack so they are using Tribal Road 1 and 5, which is causing serious problems that pose a danger. Director of Planning, Shawna Ballay, will contact the New Mexico Department of Traffic to address the problem. Jiron stated, “I don’t want a band aid on this, I want to get this fixed!”


Council member Juan Rey Abeita reported that Deigo Lujan accepted the appointment to the Isleta Health Board.


Vice-President Michael Allen Lente reported that water is being taken from the Tribe upstream. He recommended that the Governor call for a meeting with all of the appropriate agencies to deal with the water shortages and other water issues.


The Tribal Council afforded Terry Lente, President of the Task Force for Membership, an opportunity to address the Council concerning her March letter to the Council. To review the letter, click this link: Task Force Letter.

Ms. Lente explained that there were two methods of amending the Tribal Constitution. One, by having the Council request the Secretary of Interior to conduct an election for that purpose. Or, two, by the people submitting a petition, signed by one-third of eligible voters, directly to the Secretary requesting an election.

Lente stated that the Task Force decided to initiate a petition because the Council did not seem interested in the matter when she first addressed the Council.

The Task Force for Membership wants to lower the blood quantum from one-half to one-quarter. This will require amending the Tribal Constitution.

Ms. Lente wanted to know whether the Council was willing to ask the Secretary of Interior for an election on amending the Constitution to lower the blood quantum.

Council member Barbara Sanchez stated there is another petition circulating in the community “to not lower the blood quantum.” She said, “we shouldn’t select one or the other or we will make one side or the other unhappy.”

Secretary Teller stated that the Council has a duty to respond to the petitions. She said the only way to resolve this is to authorize an election and let the people vote on the issue.

Council member Josephine Padilla stated, “we don’t know if there is another petition.” Padilla felt that the Council was getting ahead of itself.

President James Abeita stated it was premature for the Council to commit ourselves to this initiative.

Council member Douglas Jiron stated that it is the Tribe that decides not the Council.

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero stated that this issue is dividing our community. He asked, “What is going to happen because this issue is coming up again?”

Council member Larry Jaramillo explained that when he was getting married that his father and uncle sat him down and they explained the consequences of his decision. He said, I made the choice and my kids are affected. Jaramillo stated that, “I’m not choosing sides right now.”

Terry Lente tried to respond to Jaramillo. She said, “I’m glad my father was not prejudiced.”

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo interrupted and said, “You are making accusations. You, yourself have your biases.”

President Abeita stated to Lente, “I admire your persistence. You have to shepherd this and you have to get the signatures. . . .”

Council member Cynthia Jaramillo interrupted and told the President, “It is not appropriate for you to be giving advice!”

Ultimately, the Council did not take any action on the matter. The Council will wait and see whether Ms. Lente and her Task Force are able to gather any names for their petition to lower the Isleta blood quantum from one-half to one-quarter.


President James Abeita decided that he will step down as President of the Council. He stated that for “personal reasons” he is stepping down. But, he will remain on the Council. His resignation took effect today (April 9, 2013) at the close of the meeting. Abeita offered no details on his “personal reasons.”

Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero immediately stated that the “Vice-President does not automatically fill the vacancy.” Lucero stated that the Tribal Constitution is not controlling on the issue because Abeita was only stepping down as President and that there was no actual vacancy on the Council.

Secretary Verna Teller made a motion to table the matter to afford the Council an opportunity to review the Constitution and that in the interim the Vice-President will preside over the meetings. Council member Fernando Abeita seconded the motion. The motion carried 11 in favor, 1 opposed and 0 abstaining. Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero opposed.

The Council adjourned at 3:37 p.m.


By Christopher Abeita

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