Isleta Quarter-Bloods: Divide & Conquer

Criteria for Tribal Membership

The Tribal Enrollment Committee (TEC) is asking the Isleta Tribal Council to approve proposed changes to the Tribal Enrollment Ordinance. If approved, the changes would allow the TEC to enroll some Isleta quarter-bloods as tribal members. But, many quarter-bloods would not qualify for membership under the TEC’s criteria.

Before voting on the proposed changes, the Council is offering tribal members an opportunity to comment on the changes. To download the ordinance with the proposed changes, click: Proposed Tribal Enrollment Ordinance (PTEO)

The proposed criteria includes: 

  • Requiring Isleta quarter-bloods to be initiated into a clan before becoming eligible for acceptance as a tribal member. See Section 3(B)(1) PTEO;
  • Requiring Isleta quarter-bloods to have been placed on a “Descendant’s list” for a period of five (5) years before becoming eligible for acceptance as a tribal member. See Section 3(B)(2) PTEO; &
  • Requiring Isleta quarter-bloods – for their entire lifetime – to have lived: on the Isleta reservation; Albuquerque; Bosque Farms; Los Lunas; Belen or another Pueblo before becoming eligible for acceptance as a tribal member. There is an excusal exception for not living in one of these areas for a ten (10) year period as long as the reason for the absence was due to military service or attending school. See Section 3(B)(3) PTEO.

The proposed changes were developed by the TEC with the legal advice of in-house attorney Kaydee Culbertson. The current members of the TEC include:

Lorraine Jaramillo;

Carolyn Sells;

Linda Chewiwi-Jiron;

Lorraine Valdez; &

Melvin Lucero.

If you want the Council to consider your comments on the proposed criteria, you must submit them to the Council no later than November 24, 2015.

Editorial Comment

Divide and Conquer: The Politics of Tribal Membership

Tribal members who are pushing a petition for a vote on a constitutional amendment to lower the blood-quantum from one-half to one-quarter are poised to submit their petition to the Secretary of Interior. If the amendment passes, it would enable ALL Isleta quarter-bloods to become tribal members. Their participation in traditional activities and place of residence would not matter. So, it would make the TEC’s proposed changes irrelevant.

However, if the Council approves the TEC’s proposed changes before the Secretarial Election, it would allow the TEC to begin immediately enrolling Isleta quarter-bloods who satisfy their criteria pursuant to Article II, Section 4 of the Isleta Tribal Constitution. The Constitution enables the Council to enroll:

“Any person of one-half (1/2) or more degree of Indian blood who is hereafter naturalized or adopted in conformity with an appropriate ordinance of the council or according to the laws and traditions of the Pueblo.” Article II, Section 4.

This means that a person with one-quarter Isleta Indian blood plus one-quarter Indian blood from any other tribe could be enrolled as a tribal member because that person’s total degree of Indian blood would equal one-half. This would satisfy the constitutional requirement under Article II, Section 4. This would enable the TEC to enroll such person as a tribal member.

Indeed, the TEC is already empowered to accept applicants for membership as long as those persons satisfy the constitutional requirements for membership. This raises the question: does the TEC even need the Council to approve their proposed amendments to the Tribal Enrollment Ordinance to begin enrolling descendants with a total degree of one-half Indian blood? 

It is unclear because the Council has never released the signed resolution approving the official Tribal Enrollment Ordinance. The Council enacted that resolution on July 13, 2006. Thereafter, the Council amended the ordinance multiple times through several other resolutions. According to Michelle Lujan, Director for the Enrollment and Census Office, she cannot release the official resolution and ordinance without the approval of attorney Kaydee Culbertson.

Nevertheless, the Council already established precedents wherein they have enrolled Isleta quarter-bloods that have one-half total degree of Indian blood and participate in the traditional activities of the Pueblo. So, it would seem that the TEC is already empowered to follow in those same footsteps pursuant to Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution.

If the TEC begins enrolling Isleta quarter-bloods who have a total degree of one-half Indian blood and participate in the traditional activities of the Pueblo, then those persons would become members without the need to amend the Tribal Constitution. If they become members, will it eliminate their incentive to vote in favor of a constitutional amendment that would allow all quarter-bloods to become members regardless of their participation in traditional activities or their place of residence?

The last Secretarial Election to lower the blood quantum from one-half to one-quarter failed by margin of approximately 10 votes. So, it would only take a small percentage of newly enrolled quarter-bloods and their families to vote against the proposed constitutional amendment. This would eliminate quarter-bloods who do not participate in the traditions from becoming tribal members for possibly decades, if not permanently.  


Comps for Tribal Attorney Pablo Padilla

Banishment of Isleta Tribal Members

Isleta Pueblo’s Policy on Membership by Naturalization or Adoption