Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

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7 1/2 Years to Enroll Quarter-Bloods

On May 2, 2016, Michelle Lujan, Isleta Census and Enrollment Coordinator, and the Tribal Enrollment Committee (TEC) submitted a proposed plan to the Isleta Tribal Council to enroll quarter-bloods. Their plan estimates that it will take them 7 1/2 years to enroll approximately 1400 quarter-bloods into the Tribe.

The TEC members attending the meeting were: Lorraine Jaramillo, Melvin Lucero, Cynthia Trujillo-Jojola, Lorraine Valdez and Carolyn Sells. The in house tribal attorney Kaydee Culbertson was also present. Culbertson has been providing legal advice to the TEC.

The plan to enroll quarter-bloods is contingent on the Secretary of Interior approving the April 6th constitutional election results to reduce the blood quantum from one-half to one-quarter.

According to their presentation, the TEC is proposing a process to enroll quarter-bloods in four (4) phases as follows:

Phase 1 – Enroll approximately 500 quarter-bloods that currently reside on the reservation. Estimated time to complete 2 1/2 years.

Phase 2 – Enroll approximately 400 quarter-bloods that reside off the reservation in nearby surrounding areas such as Valencia County and Bernalillo County. Estimated time to complete 2 years.

Phase 3 – Enroll approximately 100 quarter-bloods that reside throughout New Mexico. Estimated time to complete 1 year.

Phase 4 – Enroll approximately 400 quarter-bloods that reside throughout the United States. Estimated time to complete 2 years.

Lorraine Jaramillo, Chairwoman of the TEC, stated that the Council directed the TEC to prioritize quarter-bloods that already reside on the reservation for enrollment. This occurred at a prior council meeting. So, she explained that they followed the Council’s directive and developed the plan.

Jaramillo and Lujan provided a variety of reasons for why it would take so long to enroll the quarter-bloods. Their reasons included: not enough office space to get the work done; Council restrictions on how often the TEC may hold meetings; receiving information from other Indian tribes about applicants; and challenges to paternity.

Council member Ulysses Abeita asked why the TEC was creating new criteria to enroll people. Lujan stated that they were not creating new criteria. She said, the TEC was simply following the current enrollment ordinance to process the quarter-bloods for enrollment.

Council members were confused. For 2 1/2 hours, the Council struggled to understand the plan. Eventually, Council Member Barbara Sanchez made a motion to approve a portion of the plan that established the four (4) phases recommended by the TEC. Her motion included additional language that would enable the TEC to enroll children born to tribal members without having to wait 7 1/2 years. The motion died because no one would second her motion.

Council Member Fernando Abeita made a similar motion. His motion did not include the language suggested by Sanchez. No one would support his motion either.

However, Verna Teller, President of the Council, pressed the Council to second his motion. Finally, Michael Allen Lente reluctantly seconded the motion. The motion tied with 3 voting yes, 3 voting no and 0 abstaining. Voting in favor of the motion: Fernando Abeita, Michael Allen Lente and Verna Teller. Voting against: Barbara Sanchez, Betty Lente and Ulysses Abeita. Frank Lujan was absent.

Vice-President Betty Lente made a third motion to approve the four (4) phases of the plan without the time frames contained in the plan. Her motion did not include the language suggested by Barbara Sanchez. Lente’s motion included a requirement that quarter-bloods provide proof of residency in their application. Fernando Abeita seconded the motion. The motion passed with 4 in favor, 2 opposed and 0 abstaining. Voting in favor: Verna Teller, Betty Lente, Fernando Abeita and Michael Allen Lente. Voting No: Ulysses Abeita and Barbara Sanchez.

Lorraine Valdez requested that the Council provide the TEC with a written copy of the motion because the motion was difficult to understand.

All of the proposed motions were difficult to understand because the Council Members were making reference to section numbers contained in the written plan. The Council did not read the language of those sections out loud when the motions were stated.

Editorial Comment

Interestingly, Betty Lente’s motion did not include the estimated time frames to complete each phase of the enrollment process. Perhaps the Council believes that simply not mentioning the time frames will magically cause the enrollment process to move faster. It will not.

The TEC and the Census and Enrollment Office are in no hurry to process the quarter bloods for membership. Instead, they are creating complications to stall and hinder the process of enrolling the quarter bloods. It appears that they are causing delay because they have personal objections to enrolling the quarter bloods.

President Verna Teller reminded everyone that they needed to set aside their personal feelings or opposition to enrolling the quarter-bloods. She also stated that it was unacceptable for the process to take 7 1/2 years.

Nevertheless, none of the Council members took any action to eliminate any obstacles or excuses that would delay the enrollment of quarter-bloods.

Council Member Ulysses Abeita suggested that it may be necessary to hire more persons to work in the enrollment office. The Census Coordinator Michelle Lujan quickly objected. She said that they didn’t need more workers because they didn’t have the office space for them.

The TEC is claiming that they are simply following the Tribal Enrollment Ordinance to process the quarter-bloods into the Pueblo.


What are the requirements of the “Enrollment Ordinance”?

Are those “requirements” valid or necessary to enroll Isleta quarter-bloods into the Tribe in accordance with the constitutional amendment?

The Isleta Census and Enrollment Office already classified approximately 1400 persons as having one-quarter Isleta Indian blood. The Enrollment Office already identified those persons as “descendants.” Those persons have a “D” number on their tribal identification card. Therefore, the Enrollment Office should already have sufficient evidence in their file to prove that those persons are entitled to membership status once there is final approval of the constitutional amendment from the Secretary of Interior.

The only possible reason to exclude an Isleta quarter-blood as a member would be — if that person is already enrolled with another Indian tribe. There is no other reason to exclude a person with one-quarter Isleta Indian blood from being a member of this Tribe.

It is irrelevant where the person lives. The constitutional amendment — whether we like it or not — entitles any person with one quarter Isleta Indian blood to be a member of this Tribe.

The Isleta Tribal Council scheduled a community meeting for Saturday, May 14, 2016. The meeting will be held at the Isleta Resort and Casino – Ballroom C. The meeting is set for 9:00 a.m. thru 1:00 p.m. This would be a good time for you to ask the Council your questions about the enrollment of quarter-bloods and their motion to approve the four (4) phase plan that will take an estimated 7 1/2 years to implement as presented by the TEC.


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What are your thoughts?

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