Council Takes No Vote on Requesting a Secretarial Election
On June 15, 2015, at 2:00 p.m. tribal members asked the Isleta Tribal Council to vote on requesting the Secretary of Interior to conduct an election to amend the Isleta Tribal Constitution. They want a vote on lowering the Isleta blood quantum from one-half to one-quarter. Lowering the blood quantum would allow descendants with one-quarter Isleta blood to become members of the Pueblo.
To amend the Tribal Constitution, the Secretary of Interior must conduct an election for that purpose in accordance with federal regulations. The Interior must conduct an election if requested by the Tribal Council or upon receipt of a petition signed by at least 30% of tribal members eligible to vote.
Approximately 40 to 45 tribal members attended the meeting. Frank Lujan, President of the Council, and Governor Eddie Paul Torres were absent. All other Council Members and Executive Officials were present.
Highlights of June 15th Council Meeting:
Phillip Jojola was the Spokesperson on behalf of tribal members that are in favor of lowering the blood quantum. Jojola addressed the Council by explaining that the Tribe should recognize the quarter bloods as members of the Pueblo. He said that they want an opportunity for the Tribe to vote on the issue. He said everyone is free to vote yes or no and there’s no need for anyone to argue or fight.
Jojola said that he served in the military for 20 years of his life. He said the purpose of his service to our country was to protect our freedoms — the freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the freedom to vote. Jojola told the Council, “. . . give us an opportunity to vote.”
Another veteran, Hubert Abeita, also spoke. He told the Council that his daughter is a descendent and that she also served in the military. When she completed her service, she was excited about coming back home. But, when she arrived, she found that she was unwelcomed by her community. He asked the Council to request an election so people could vote on the issue.
Lorenzo “Snookie” Keryte
Lorenzo Keryte spoke next. He said I am a grandfather and a parent. And, my grand kids have no rights here because they are being told that they don’t belong here. They are treated as if they are nothing.
Randy Jiron (Former Lt. Governor)
Randy Jiron addressed the Council. He said the people already voted on this issue and the Tribe already made its decision in 2009 or 2010. The people are against lowering the blood quantum. And, you [the Council] need to let the community know what you are doing before voting right now. You need to let them know what you are planning before you do it or else you will be hit with the blame.
Jiron then turned to the audience. He said it’s not good for us to be dividing ourselves and fighting about this issue. Everyone is affected, all of us are affected. We are not putting anyone back; we are not pushing anyone back. We accept them traditionally.
It’s my job to protect everyone traditionally. I am not against the quarter bloods. It’s my job to keep us together. So, we can live in peace and harmony. We all come from the same seed. But, we have something very important that we must protect.
Let’s not open the gate to everyone. Maybe we can accept the people that are here but not the people from New York, California – or all over. I am not against the quarters in Albuquerque or the surrounding communities. Maybe, we can let them in. But, we need to be careful about opening the gates.
I am not here to work against the quarters. But, I don’t want to open the floodgates to the outside. They have different ideas and they are going to be telling us what to do. That is my feeling. I wish we could work in that direction.
I’m willing to work with you and listen to you.
Council Member Verna Teller
Teller said, yes, we did have a vote and it was a very close vote.
There is a lot of fear to open the door to the quarter bloods. We will be opening the door to a lot of people that don’t have a clue as to who they are or who we are.
But, we have a lot of people here [the quarter bloods] that take part in our traditional ways. They are part of our community.
We are losing our traditions. In the past, no one would identify the War Captains or War Chiefs. But, now, they are the ones identifying themselves.
We are rejecting our own people. Rejection is the worst thing that you can do to hurt someone.
We are a sovereign nation. What does that mean? It means that we make our own laws. We can set parameters for who is and is not a member. We already recognize some and reject others. We have already accepted some that are only quarter bloods. Some people will think it’s fair and others will not.
But, people need to show that they are a part of our community. Who are we willing to accept as part of our family? There’s no such thing as a full blood Isleta. During the Pueblo Revolt, we ran away to Hopi! Do you think that we came back without any Hopis?
Council Member Betty Lente
Our elders have told us that we shouldn’t dilute our blood. But, who am I to tell people who they should marry? My family is affected too. I’m in that situation.
Someday, we are no longer going to exist, no matter what our elders have told us.
It’s going to happen [lowering of the blood quantum]. And when it happens, I will accept it. I have no problem with it. We have to look at all sides.
Council Member Barbara Sanchez
Lowering the blood quantum will put a strain on our resources. For one of our programs, we received 3.8 million in federal funding and we gave that same program 1.7 million from the Tribe as a supplement.
There are 42 people on the housing list. What will lowering the blood quantum do to them?
Right now, many non-members already benefit from our resources. We had a program that had 250 children participating. They were going on field trips and all types of activities. Many of those children were descendents and we [the Council] allowed them to participate. We didn’t stop them. The parents of all the children in that program didn’t have to hardly pay for anything.
Descendants are already getting many benefits. We don’t deprive them. We don’t discriminate.
Dorothy Martinez, you came to us for help. You wanted help for someone that is not even a tribal member and we helped because that person has been a part of our community. So, the non-members benefit from the resources of the Tribe.
But, what if someone comes from New York and runs for Governor? I wouldn’t want that and neither would any of you. There needs to be a residency requirement.
There will be an impact on the services provided to tribal members, if we lower the blood quantum. We need to think about that.
And, what about our language? I guess our language program is not working because we aren’t producing fluent speakers.
We just had a community clean up. Who put in the work? Mostly tribal employees; there were very few tribal members. Where is the spirit of the community?
Council Member Ulysses Abeita
Well, I was prepared to make a motion to request an election. But, I think there are a lot of questions and this is a complex issue so I’m going to wait.
And, I don’t think that was a good example of a person from New York coming to run for Governor. We already have a residency requirement to run for office in the Constitution. [To run for a seat on the Council or to run for Governor, the Constitution requires tribal members to live on the reservation for five consecutive years.]
William “Bill” Abeita
Well, where do we go from here? Times have changed, and we have to accept the changes. This blood quantum is nothing but paper genocide. Let’s open our minds a little. I don’t believe that there will be an influx of quarter bloods running down I-25 to live here.
Vice-President Michael Allen Lente
We are not going to make a decision today.
Josephine Padilla (Former Council Member)
Wait, I want to say something. It is up to the people – not just the 7 of you. You shouldn’t be making the decision. And, I ask, why be in a hurry? I know it’s going to happen. But, why be in a hurry? I have a family, they are affected and they are willing to wait. They are willing to wait their turn.
We already had an election on this and I voted no. And, it was a close vote. But that’s because we allowed people that don’t even live here to vote – from all over.
Why do you want it today? If it’s lowered, these quarter bloods are going to want to lower it to one-eighth.
And, I want you to know that I am not against any of you. But, we should wait. Why rush it?
Diane Peigler (Former Council Member – Removed Illegally from Office)
This is about the money and it shouldn’t be. It should be about our hearts. We all live here even though we don’t like to recognize one another. We can’t be happy because of jealousy and greed.
Yes, it was a close vote and it would’ve probably passed but we didn’t count all of the votes that were sitting over at the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs). [Peigler is referring to absentee votes that were mailed to the BIA. The BIA failed to count those votes. In a Secretarial Election, the BIA is responsible for conducting the election not the Tribe.]
And, Josephine – it’s not just these 7 people that decide [the Council]. It’s the Tribe because everyone will have a chance to vote.
We are asking the Council to take a vote on this – to ask for an election – that’s why we are here.
Vice-President Michael Allen Lente
We are not going to make any decision today.
The Vice-President closed discussion on the issue and he thanked everyone. The Council then took a break. The discussion lasted approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Of course, lowering the blood quantum will give us new challenges. But, it will also give us new resources. It will give us something more important than money. It will give us our descendants. And, yes they will bring us new ideas for our tribal government and enterprises. This will give us a chance to vote new persons into office, which we desperately need.
The dispute about the blood quantum has been ongoing for years. We know the arguments for and against. It’s unlikely that either side will be able to convince the other to change their opinion on the issue.
If a vote occurs and you’re against it, then vote against it.
If you’re for lowering the blood quantum, then take action by signing the petition to request a Secretarial Election. Signing the petition will allow you to bypass the Council and Governor.
Don’t waste your time and energy arguing with someone that will never change their mind because it’s futile. Use your time and energy to move the petition forward. Help spread the word by telling people where they can sign the petition.
Everyone has the right to fight for whatever they believe in. And, you have the right to fight for the people in your family that are quarter bloods. You have the right to give them a voice. Don’t depend on anyone else to do it for you. Don’t depend on the Council or the Governors.
The people that are against lowering the blood quantum are fighting vigorously against your children and grandchildren. And, the Council wants you to be satisfied with whatever they choose to give your children and grandchildren.
But, your children and grandchildren are entitled to everything that the full bloods and half bloods are getting because as Randy Jiron stated, “we all come from the same seed.”
When your grandchild comes to the dinner table, do you give him less food because he’s a quarter-blood? Do you give that child less love? Are you going to fight for your children and grandchildren to be recognized as tribal members? Are you going to fight for their birth right? Are you going to fight for them to gain a voice in OUR Tribe?
Petition to Request Secretarial Election to Lower the Isleta Blood Quantum
Tribal members are still gathering signatures for their petition to request a Secretarial Election to lower the Isleta blood quantum. To sign the petition, you may contact any of the persons listed below:
Phillip Jojola (505) 916-6465;
Hubert Abeita (505) 307-3946; or
Joanne Rael (505) 379-7152.