Melvin Ruben Lucero is the spokesperson for tribal members who are gathering signatures for a new petition to change Isleta’s Constitution. They are proposing four (4) amendments.
Proposed Amendment 1
Their first proposed amendment would prevent any person with 1/4 Isleta blood and 3/4 non-Indian blood from becoming a tribal member. For example, if you have 1/4 Isleta blood and 3/4 Hispanic blood, you could not be a tribal member.
Instead, to be a tribal member, their amendment would require persons to have at least 1/4 Isleta blood AND 1/2 Indian blood from some other tribe. This means that a person would need at least 3/4 Indian blood in order to be an Isleta tribal member.
However, section 4 of their amendment would allow a person WITHOUT any Isleta blood to become a tribal member as long as the person has 1/2 Indian blood from some other tribe. For instance, a person with 1/2 Navajo blood and 1/2 non-Indian blood could become a tribal member. But, children who have 1/4 Isleta blood and 3/4 non-Indian blood could not be members. How does that make any sense?
The proposed amendment discriminates against any person with 1/4 Isleta blood and 3/4 blood from any non-Indian group. Essentially, this punishes quarter-blood children simply because their mother or father is a non-Indian.
Below, you will find the proposed amendment that they want tribal members to approve.
“Section 1. Persons of one-half (1/2) or more degree of Indian blood of a federally recognized Indian tribe or tribes, and with at least one-quarter (1/4) degree of Isleta Indian blood and Isleta parentage, shall be members of the Pueblo of Isleta, provided they have not renounced their right to membership.
Section 2. All persons of one-half (1/2) or more degree of Indian blood of a federally recognized Indian tribe or tribes, and with at least one-quarter (1/4) degree of Isleta Indian blood whose names appear on the official census roll maintained by Southern Pueblos Agency, as of January 1, 1970.
Section 3. Any person of one-half (1/2) or more degree of Indian blood of a federally recognized Indian tribe or tribes, and with at least one-quarter (1/4) degree of Isleta Indian blood born after January 1, 1970.
Section 4. Any person of one-half (1/2) or more degree of Indian blood of a federally recognized Indian tribe or tribes who is hereafter adopted in conformity with an appropriate ordinance of the council or according to the laws and traditions of the Pueblo of Isleta.”
Proposed Amendment 2
The second proposal would require a person to speak the Isleta language to be eligible to hold an executive office with the Pueblo. The executive officers are the governor, the lieutenant governors, and the sheriffs.
The proposed amendment states:
“He shall speak the Isleta language.”
How does speaking the Isleta language allow us to get better leaders? Governor Eddie Paul Torres speaks the Isleta language as well as the entire Tribal Council. But, they have not done a very good job for our tribe.
Governor Torres has wasted hundreds of thousands — if not millions — with his failed lava block plant. Under Torres and the Council, our Casino remains mismanaged and cannot compete with Sandia or Route 66. The City of Albuquerque poured 6 million gallons of sewage into our river and Governor Torres and the Council did nothing to protect our water quality standards. Sandia National Labs has radioactive nuclear waste buried next to our northern border, which threatens underground water and the Council and Governor have done nothing.
So, even though the current batch of tribal officials all speak the Isleta language, it has done nothing to help them protect the health, well-being or financial security of our tribe.
Also, how would this amendment be enforced? Would there be a language test? Who would give the test? The language department? The Cultural Committee? The Council?
To enforce the amendment, the Council or someone else would need to screen out candidates who do not satisfy the requirement of speaking the Isleta language. This takes away the right of voters to decide for themselves who should hold public office.
The proposed amendment is a bad idea because it eliminates competition by disqualifying many tribal members from running for office.
Proposed Amendment 3
The third proposed amendment would allow “traditional leaders” to be above the constitution. This means that they would have no obligation to honor or comply with the constitution.
The proposed amendment states:
“The enumeration in this constitution of the duties of the Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, and Judicial Branch shall not be construed to limit the inherent powers and authorities of the traditional leaders of the Pueblo of Isleta in accordance with the customs and traditions of the Pueblo of Isleta.”
The amendment is so broad and ambiguous that it could mean anything. This makes it very dangerous. The key terms state:
“. . . this constitution . . . shall not be construed to limit the inherent powers and authorities of the traditional leaders . . .”
This means that there would be no limits on whatever “powers and authorities” that “traditional leaders” believe that they have. So, if “traditional leaders” say that they have a certain power, no one could question it. Indeed, nobody would be able to raise any challenge because no branch of our government would have authority to question the “traditional leaders” because the proposed amendment would give “traditional leaders” absolute power.
The ultimate purpose of a constitution is to place limitations on governmental officials. It is to place restraints on how governmental officials may use power. This is to prevent officials from abusing power. But, the proposed amendment would eliminate any limitation on “traditional leaders.”
Why is it suddenly necessary for “traditional leaders” to be above the constitution? Why should “traditional leaders” be above the law?
There is a quote, it states: “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Creating language in the constitution to place “traditional leaders” above the constitution gives them absolute power. Is that truly wise for our tribe?
Proposed Amendment 4
The fourth proposed amendment takes away the right of tribal members to petition the federal government directly to request a special election to change the Constitution.
Instead, the amendment would force tribal members to submit their petition for constitutional changes to the Secretary of the Council. Unfortunately, tribal officials could then easily find excuses to ignore petitions. Also, tribal officials could create additional burdens or obstacles to discourage or prevent people from pursuing a petition to change our government. This would cause litigation to force tribal officials to honor a petition.
Litigation would be extremely unfair to tribal members sponsoring a petition. First, our tribal courts have a history of failing to make rulings on politically sensitive cases. In other words, our judges do not have the guts to make rulings against the Council or Governor because our courts are not independent. Second, the Council and Governor would be able to use the TRIBE’S MONEY to pay lawyers to fight against tribal members trying to enforce a petition. This places tribal members at a great disadvantage financially in a case where tribal officials are refusing to honor a petition.
At this time, it makes no sense to take away the right of the people to petition the federal government directly. So, the proposed amendment should be rejected until we first change our constitution to restructure and protect our courts from political manipulation and retaliation by any Governor or any Council. Until this occurs, we cannot trust or depend on our courts to resolve legal disputes against the Governor or the Council.
The proposed amendment states:
“This constitution may be amended by a majority vote of the members of the Pueblo of Isleta eighteen (18) years of age or over, voting in a special election called for such purpose; provided, that at least thirty percent (30%) of those entitled to vote shall vote in such election. It shall be the duty of the Council Secretary to call and hold a special election on any proposed amendment to the Constitution upon the request of a majority of the council or upon receipt of a petition signed by at least one-third (1/3) of the voters eligible to vote on said amendment. The special election shall be held within ninety (90) days of receipt of a petition by the Council Secretary.”
Hopefully, the majority of our tribe will see that the four (4) proposed amendments are bad ideas. To download the petition, click: New Petition