Monday, October 13, 2014

A long struggle for both autonomy and inclusion


On this Indigenous People's Day (aka Columbus Day) it seems right to quote some observations from the descendants of original inhabitants from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

Their effort to preserve cultural and legal autonomy is summarized in this statement:

Sovereignty continues to be challenged and yet is sustained in spite of challenges from governments, agencies and individuals.

In 1924, a Citizenship Act finally made the people of the Pueblos into citizens of the United States.

Not all Indian people viewed citizenship as a something wonderful. Their experience in dealing with Washington and the states did not give them much confidence in government or desire to participate in it. Some feared they would have to give up their own sovereignty. Some feared this would open up taxing for their lands.

"United States citizenship is just another way of absorbing us and destroying our customs and our government. We had our citizenship ... Our citizenship is with our nations."

The state of New Mexico didn't actually treat native residents as full citizens until after losing a court case brought by a native veteran of World War II in 1948. Until then, the Pueblo people were considered merely "Indians not taxed" and denied the right to vote.

This was a monumental event ushering in new opportunities for representation in state, local and national elections. It would take many years before this was fully realized. Early advocates of political participation were ridiculed by their own Pueblo people. Their persistence however paved the way ...

As late as 2004, my own experience with electoral organizing in the state included running into many obstacles to getting Pueblo people onto the voter rolls. Today there is at least one State Representative who comes from a Pueblo community.

1 comment:

Hattie said...

I'd really like to spend some time in that part of the country. The issues there are somewhat different from those in Hawaii, in particular our status as a "minority majority" state. Hawaiians don't have the same status as other Native American groups. No treaty was ever signed with them.
As an aside, our Mayor, Billy Kenoi, participated in the Iron Man event and finished still looking good! He is part Hawaiian and his wife is Japanese. Typical island people!

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