Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

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Council Plans Tribal Membership Discussion

Council Plans Tribal Membership Discussion

The Isleta Tribal Council plans to meet with Randy Jiron, Head War Chief, on Tuesday, September 8, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. to discuss tribal membership issues. Jiron previously served as a Lieutenant Governor for Alvino Lucero.

This past June, Jiron spoke against efforts to amend the Isleta Tribal Constitution to recognize descendants as tribal members who have at least one-quarter Isleta Indian blood. Tribal members asked the Council to request the Secretary of Interior to hold an election to amend the Constitution.

Jiron spoke against the request. He explained that accepting all persons with one-quarter Isleta Indian blood would threaten the Pueblo’s customs and “traditional way of life.” He believes the Council should compromise by accepting only quarter bloods that already live on the rez. He is also willing to consider accepting quarter bloods that live in surrounding areas of the rez. He does not want the Council to accept quarter blood descendants that live out-of-state.

The Council took no action to request an election. As a result, tribal members were forced to move forward with their petition to directly request the Secretary of Interior to hold an election to amend the Constitution. A petition signed by at least 33% of tribal members eligible to vote would require the Secretary to conduct an election.

Tribal members need approximately 200 more signatures to reach their goal of 33%. The petition would allow tribal members to bypass the Council.

Barbara Sanchez, Secretary of the Council, contacted Phillip Jojola to invite him to the Council’s meeting on September 8th. According to Jojola, Sanchez told him that President Frank Lujan is restricting him to bringing only 5 persons in his group to attend the meeting.

Jojola informed the Council that tribal members are moving forward with their petition. He also requested the Council to disclose the total number of tribal members enrolled with the Tribe that are eligible to vote. The Council has not yet responded to the request.

Tribal members living out-of-state are entitled to sign the petition requesting a Secretarial election. Tribal members living out-of-state are also eligible to vote in such election. The amendment would enable all persons with at least one-quarter Isleta Indian blood to become members of the Pueblo.

Tribal members living out-of-state who want to sign the petition may contact:

Phillip Jojola (505) 916-6465;
Hubert Abeita (505) 307-3946; or
Joanne Rael (505) 379-7152.

Opponents of the petition argue that accepting quarter blood descendants would strain the resources of the Pueblo. They also fear Isleta quarter bloods getting into political power. They believe that the majority of quarter bloods are outsiders who have no knowledge of the Pueblo’s customs and traditions.

In 2010, the Council requested a Secretarial election on a proposed amendment that would have recognized descendants with at least one-quarter Isleta Indian blood. The election sharply divided the Tribe.

Former Governor Alvino Lucero, Frank Zuni and Randy Jiron tried to stop the election to deprive tribal members from voting on the proposed amendment. They requested an injunction through the Isleta Tribal Court to prevent the election.

Ultimately, the Isleta Appellate Court upheld a ruling from the Tribal Court denying the injunction. To read the Appellate Court’s decision, click: Order Affirming Tribal Court Denial, IAC-10-007.

Justices rendering the decision were:

William Johnson, Chief Justice;
Christine Zuni-Cruz, Associate Justice; &
Francine Hatch, Associate Justice (n/k/a Francine Padilla).

So, the election was conducted in 2010. The proposed amendment failed by a margin of approximately 10 votes.

Thereafter, the Council enacted a Residency Ordinance, which forces descendants with one quarter Isleta Indian blood to submit to a background investigation along with non-Indians and non-members, if they wish to continue living on the rez. The Governor then decides whether to grant them permission to reside on the rez with their families. These individuals must undergo a background investigation every 5 years and request permission to continue living on the rez.

The Council justified the Residency Ordinance by claiming it was needed to protect the community from criminals.


Blood Quantum, Racial Separatism, Tribalism and the Federal Government

Fear of the Quarter Bloods

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