By John Christian Hopkins
Navajo Council members met with New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham in Santa Fe to discuss the top priorities of the Navajo people for New Mexico.
Topics of discussion included road and water infrastructure projects, support for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives (MMIWR) movement, the Indian Family Protection Act, and ensuring key provisions of the Yazzie-Martinez court decision are fully implemented.
State Senator Nancy Rodriguez (D-NM) is the sponsor of Senate Bill No. 212 that was passed last week by the New Mexico Senate and House of Representatives allocating $14.8 million in Capital Outlay Funds for Navajo chapters.
“Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham continues to advocate for the communities of Tóhajiilee, Alamo, and Ramah. Our chapters that are located in the rural areas of the Navajo Nation are working hard to get the resources and assistance they need,” Navajo Budget & Finance Committee Chair Jamie Henio said. “The governor is committed to upgrading our roadways to my three chapters and understands the importance of fully funding the To’hajiilee and Albuquerque water project. Bringing electricity and water to our elders and those most in need of help is a top priority.
Joining Henio in the meeting with the governor were Health, Education, and Human Services (HEHSC) Chairman Daniel Tso and Council Delegate Mark Freeland.
Projected appropriations for capital outlay projects in the eastern agency of the Navajo Nation is over $8 million.
The Tóhajiilee, Alamo, and Ramah Chapters will receive around $1.6 million for bathroom additions, chapter renovation costs, internet system improvements, roadway upgrades, and the construction of new electric power lines.
In 2018, Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that all students have a right to be college and career ready and that the state is failing to meet this obligation.
New Mexico has a 70 percent graduation rate, low proficiency rates in reading and math, and high rates of students in remediation classes while attending college.
New Mexico has a trust obligation to meet the court-ordered obligations of the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit, Tso said.
“The governor must sign House Bill 2 that will allocate millions of additional funding for the Yazzie-Martinez priorities to be implemented by the Indian Education Division,” Tso explained. “The court ascertained that the constitution of New Mexico assures equity in education for all Indigenous students.”
Tso commended the leadership of Assistant Secretary LaShawna Tso for her hard work during the legislative session and for being a champion for Native students.
If signed into law, Senate Bill No. 212 will provide around $1.3 million to Navajo Preparatory School for building construction costs, security upgrades, and broadband internet improvements. In addition, House Bill No. 15 would allocate $4 million for the construction of a Navajo Technical University (NTU) interdisciplinary building in Crownpoint and $5 million for a Diné College Student Services Building in Shiprock.
“One hundred and fifty-eight years ago, our ancestors walked through these streets of Santa Fe to Fort Sumner during the Navajo Long Walk. The removal of the Kit Carson name from all public buildings in New Mexico will separate this dark history experienced by our Navajo people,” Freeland said. “Kit Carson is someone that should only remembered for perpetuating genocide. The governor supports our effort to remove all public names associated with him and the dark legacy he leaves behind. We plan to work with state lawmakers to introduce a bill during the 2023 legislative session to make this change permanent.”
In November, the Naabik’íyáti’ Committee passed Resolution No. NABIN-44-21 supporting the removal of Christopher “Kit” Carson from all monuments, state parks, government buildings, highways and streets within New Mexico.
State Representative Georgene Louis (D-NM) is the sponsor of House Bill No. 135 to enact the Indian Family Protection Act that would consolidate provisions for child custody proceedings involving Indigenous children, creating a Tribal Affairs Office within the Department of Children, Youth and Families Department, and more.
“State leaders must work with us to address this crisis and provide necessary protections under the law to protect our relatives from violence,” Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty said. “Our surviving families deserve a call from law enforcement to solve their cases and a government that fights for them.”