Council Meeting on Proposed Amendments to Membership Ordinance

Proposed Criteria for Isleta 1/4 Bloods

On October 5, 2015, approximately 100 tribal members attended the Isleta Tribal Council meeting about  the possible enrollment of descendants who have 1/4 Isleta Indian blood. The Tribal Enrollment Committee (TEC) is proposing amendments to the Tribal Membership Ordinance that would allow the TEC to enroll quarter bloods as members. The TEC presented their PROPOSED amendments  to the Council.

Governor Eddie Paul Torres and Council President Frank Lujan were absent. All other council members were present along with both lieutenant governors.

The proposed amendments establish “criteria” that the TEC would use to either accept or reject Isleta quarter bloods as members of the Pueblo.

Lorraine Jaramillo spoke on behalf of the TEC. She explained that the TEC has been developing “criteria for the past few years.” She said “criteria” is needed to protect: customs and traditions; the resources of the Tribe; and to allow Isleta to slowly adapt to the membership of quarter-bloods.

According to Jaramillo, Attorney Kaydee Culbertson has been drafting the proposed amendments. She said Culbertson is making sure that the amendments comply with the Isleta Tribal Constitution and the “2008 bylaws of the TEC.”

To review the proposed criteria, click: “Amended and Restated Membership Ordinance of the Isleta Pueblo.”


The Isleta Census and Enrollment Office reported that there are:

1,410 Total Descendants. The breakdown of that number is:

277 Live out-of-state;
183 Whereabouts are unknown;
482 Reside on the Isleta reservation; &
468 Live throughout NM.

Several people made comments on whether the Pueblo should accept Isleta quarter-bloods as members. The comments were more of the same old rhetoric on both sides of the issue. There was nothing new.

Unconstitutional Delegation of Power

Frieda Zuni-Apodoca, a tribal member, questioned whether the Council is violating the Constitution by delegating its powers to the TEC. Delegating means that the Council is giving its powers to the TEC.

In relevant part, the Constitution states:

“The Council shall have original jurisdiction and sole authority to determine eligibility for enrollment for all tribal purposes . . . .” Article II, Section 8.

The language “original jurisdiction” means that the Council is first to act in resolving questions about a person’s eligibility for enrollment. The terms “sole authority” means that the Council is the exclusive body to resolve questions or conflicts about a person’s eligibility for enrollment.

But, the Council has a different interpretation due to the legal advice of Pablo H. Padilla.  The Council believes that it can give its powers to the TEC. For instance, the Council empowered the TEC to strip away a person’s membership status. The Council also allows the TEC to modify a person’s blood quantum. 

Attorney Pablo H. Padilla explained that his “legal eyes” told him that the Council can delegate its powers to the TEC. He said the ordinance allows a person to appeal TEC decisions to the Council. The Council then functions like an Appellate Court with final decision making authority. So, according to Padilla, since the Council makes the final decision, it then somehow allows the Council to delegate its powers to the TEC.

Padilla’s interpretation seems flawed because he completely ignores the terms “original jurisdiction” and “sole authority.” He provides no explanation on what those constitutional terms mean or how they function.

Enrollment Ordinance Can be Challenged

The question on whether the Council may give its powers to the TEC means that the Council’s Membership Ordinance is vulnerable. It can be legally attacked.

To challenge the membership ordinance, a person must be harmed by a decision of the TEC. The person would then be able to raise challenges to the constitutionality of the ordinance. 

The Constitution states:

“. . . the tribal court shall determine  the constitutionality of enactments of the council submitted to the court for review.” Article IX, Section 6.

So, if the TEC made a decision that caused you harm, you may file a lawsuit against the TEC and the Tribal Council. This would then require the Court to analyze the Constitution and decide whether the Council may delegate its powers to the TEC.

Ultimately, the Isleta Tribal Court and then the Isleta Appellate Court would get to decide whether the membership ordinance is consistent with the Constitution.

But, if the Council believes that a judge on the Court is likely to rule against the Council, then the Council is likely to illegally remove that judge from office. Why? Because our judges and justices are not truly independent. They are subject to the political whims of the Council and the Governor. But, that’s a story for a later date.



4 Replies to “Council Meeting on Proposed Amendments to Membership Ordinance”

  1. The TEC committee is an appointed committee by the tribal council??? So to remain in those positions they will potentially do what the council wants them to do. If this is gong to be a “fair” committee then those positions should be ELECTED positions!

    1. I disagree with you Terry about having a “fair” committee! The council has always solicited names from the community and usually reverts back to the popularity contest! How ironic is it that you and your Membership Committee supported Fernando Abeita and Eddie Paul Torres in last year’s election because they were both in favor of lowering the blood quantum requirement for eligibility. According to insiders, neither individuals have expressed their opinions in favor of lowering the requirements for membership in any Council meeting. How fair was that?

    2. An election does not guarantee that the person elected will be fair.

      The problem with the committee is that they operate in secrecy. The tribe has absolutely no idea what they are doing.

      Secrecy prevents accountability.

What are your thoughts?