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letters, opinions, editorials
re: desecration of sacred
In the Sandoval Signpost, March
2007 article “Jackson, Wilson, Chavez consider traffic congestion
on Highway 550 during rush hour,” it appears that Congresswoman
Heather Wilson and the city councils of Bernalillo and Rio Rancho
and County Commissioner Don Leonard are considering a commuter highway
through the “sovereign lands” of Santa Ana Pueblo.
As Indian people, we have governed
ourselves as “autonomous sovereign Indian nations” since
time immemorial. This issue on US 550 raises questions about the
direction of the city councils of Bernalillo and Rio Rancho!
Highway 550, though it may not
be so blatant today, is a threat that exists nonetheless. The city
planners continue to address their concerns of traffic congestion
on US 550 and ignore objections from tribal members. Their vision
of a commuter highway at the sacrifice of Indian land is for the
sole benefit of the commuters.
How does a Pueblo survive an attempt
at premeditated politics? Will Santa Ana become the next 550 expansion?
What is our destiny?
We are reminded of another “similar
taking” in 2005, the “Desecration of Sacred Sites”
at the Petroglyph National Monument and the completion of the Paseo
del Norte Expansion. These are the “insensitive acts of which
there is no shame,” the city planners continue to ignore the
Indigenous “point of view”!
Maybe the city planners haven’t noticed the location or the
spiritual significance of this sacred site. The city planners continue
a symbolic journey, a violent invasion of this sacred land!
Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments
of comfort, but where he stands in times of challenges and controversy.”
In human nature, conflicts will
ultimately arise to challenge the people. It is obvious this highway
does have a solution and that is ... by having a commuter highway
through the town of Bernalillo.
As I stated before, the Santa
Ana Tribal Council in 2003 voted against any further discussion
of feasibility study with Sandoval County regarding this issue.
The Tribal Council of the Pueblo of Santa Ana is the duly authorized
decision-making body for the pueblo.
Our actions will test our sovereignty,
internally and externally to govern our affairs. Sovereignty begins
here, right here with our people!
The Federal Indian Civil Rights
Act of 1968 states, “No Indian Tribe in exercising powers
of self-government shall make or enforce any law prohibiting the
free exercise of religion or abridging the freedom of speech of
Today, I address this issue on
US 550 and exercise my “First Amendment” right to free
—MANUEL R. CRISTOBAL,
SANTA ANA TRIBAL COUNCILMAN, Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico
re: Flying Star revisited
With all due respect, my comments in the Signpost last month regarding
the Flying Star Project were solely directed at the visual intrusion
of architectural style and how it affects the tenuous “sense
of place” represented by native “homegrown” styles
along Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo. Having some experience in
project planning and preservation in small towns, I applaud the
Bernalillo Council and the County Planner’s staff for their
tireless efforts to secure a workable project for this pivotal district.
Unfortunately, despite the detailed explanations of the functional
aspects of the design, I remain skeptical that the visual style—(not
the use of native materials or “color schemes,” not
the use of traditional site planning)—the very basic “visual
sense” of the project as it parks itself on Camino del Pueblo
will intrude and further scatter the “terroir” of Bernalillo.
I use that term as it applies to the physical senses engaged by
someone who experiences a particular place. It’s the distinctive
surroundings, history, spirit, taste, and smell of a locale that
makes it memorable. I believe that public commercial architecture—as
distinctive from home architecture, itself a hotly-debated topic—owes
a debt to the community in which it is built. The burden is upon
the newer structures to prove through their design execution and
use planning that they enhance rather than eclipse the local sense
of place. A showcase urban design in a small town usually looks
for all the world like the caricature of an American Tourist abroad:
Boy, am I having fun!?
One of the mistakes I feel is made in architectural planning nationwide
is the widespread belief that small town “style” or
“identity” is equivalent to city identity without the
capital. This belief further dilutes small town life by inserting
less “capital-rich” architectural style that still take
their design cue from urban architecture. One of the hallmarks of
urban identity is the willingness to lose historic structures, neighborhoods,
and architecture to support the newer ideals—a vague shrug
of the shoulders to “progress.” The vitality felt in
big cities is often the result of the popular abandonment of memory
of what went before in the face of constant change. New York City
may be the “capital of the world,” but it is also the
capital of nostalgia in the USA, reflecting hundreds of years of
The fact of change alone is not itself a judgment of “better”
than what it replaces. In addition, the inevitability of loss and
change in an urban environment, coupled with the abiding nostalgia
for what is gone, may not be a foregone conclusion in a small town.
Small towns have the opportunity to direct their own futures and
preserve what is honest and valuable in their architecture, since
they are not usually so driven by outside pressures to embrace quick
By some standards, Bernalillo might be considered a fragile, already-threatened
Main Street community, struggling to thrive in a changing world.
Its rightfully proud native architectural forms derived from the
functions they were intended for and re-interpreted carefully in
the newer designs of public construction cited in the response of
Planner Moe do preserve and extend the “Bernalillo-ness”
of Camino del Pueblo. On the other hand, from the drawings published
in the Signpost, my perception of the design of the Camino-frontage
of the Flying Star Project remains that of an architect and an urban
“statement” design (in local colors, of course) that
will still figuratively swing its “elbows” about, making
room for its own sense of pride.
Community projects can often be so difficult to mount attaining
consensus financing, that by the time they are approved, aesthetic
considerations may become secondary in importance. I believe that
good architectural aesthetics, like most of Bernalillo’s recently
constructed public buildings, should serve the sense of place, not
dilute it. Of course, Bernalillo is not Santa Fe. Santa Fe’s
architectural standards have created enough internal enmity to go
around—and then some! On the other hand, it remains one of
the most desired tourist destinations in the world and one of the
most highly desired residential locations, in many cases, because
of the foresight of the city planners those decades ago.
In other words, no one wants to visit New Mexico so they can enjoy
California urban architecture (in local colors) nestled in our beloved
small towns. The local hand-shaped architectural aesthetics have
served New Mexicans well for hundreds of years, and in my humble
opinion, the new Project’s aesthetics will only serve the
developers’and architects’ sense of personal accomplishment
beyond their utility for the community.
Finally, as far as putting my money where my mouth is, I have
over the years with each home repair and project. We live in one
of the county’s last recently-built full adobe homes! It’s
getting tough to find reasonable adoberos and masons, so training
some new ones makes a lot of sense. The learning curve is a lot
longer for those skills than it is for frame construction—it
will cost more to train them. Fortunately, traditional skills are
here to stay:
born from the land itself, they will always find a market. Stuccoed
Oriented-Strand Wallboard may come and go, but stone and adobe will
be here in one hundred or two hundred years!
—RICHARD SUTTON, Placitas
re: Patrick adjusts
Dear Friends Back East:
Thanks for asking about Patrick—my fine Maine Coon Cat.
I’m pleased to report he’s adjusting to New Mexico even
better than me. And he’s a far cry from that filthy, bloody,
starving, sad, half-frozen stray that appeared at our back door
in Rhode Island a few winters ago.
His traditional, heavy-duty sexual interest in lady felines, (and
lady opossums, squirrels, raccoons, and small female members of
the terrier breed), has been severely compromised by surgery and
lack of opportunity. Indeed, his closest contacts with other members
of the animal kingdom have been limited to nose-to-nose meetings
with a large bull snake (whose name is Lochinvar) and a multiplicity
of small lizards. None of these contacts, to my knowledge, were
carnal in nature—at least not overtly so. (His fenced-in outdoor
life is also highly regulated due to the risks from coyotes, owls
Patrick’s two main hobbies are (1) shedding and (2) striving
for total daily regularity in eating and bodily elimination practices.
He is, I dare say, as accomplished in both skills as any other retiree
in the Land of Enchantment, including me.
Nearly every morning, I awake to Patrick sitting on the end of
the bed, his thick, stumpy “forearms” tucked under him,
as he watches the sunrise over the Sandias. He appears to be in
a meditative state, his mantra a strong Harley-Davidson-like purr,
and his yellow eyes open to a new day dawning. Zen-like, he truly
lives for the moment.
You may recall how certain musical pieces—particularly Pachobel’s
Canon, solos by Karen Carpenter and any Celtic harp piece—would
seem to settle him down. Well, that’s still true, but he has
apparently taken a liking to Marty Robbins (particularly El Paso
and Streets of Laredo), and Native American flute music as well.
(I just may start adding a little cilantro to his Salmon Supreme.)
I usually leave a radio on to keep him company when I’m
out for an extended period and once, inadvertently, gave him prolonged
exposure to a morning here’s-how-you-must-think/here’s-who-you-must-hate
“talk radio” buffoon. When I returned, Patrick peed
on my shoes. I wasn’t angry and would have done the same thing,
but I’m now more careful about his cultural exposure.
I regret to say that Patrick’s latest vet check-up showed
him to have the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). While he may
still live a normal lifespan, it makes us aware that his life’s
energy, like our own, must someday manifest itself in a different
fashion. In his case, I suspect it will have something to do with
—YOUR FRIEND, HERB, Placitas
Heard around the West
Sometimes you can be too vigilant. Someone who spotted a black bag
on the side of a road in eastern California reported that it had
a suspiciously “foul odor.” A sheriff’s deputy
investigated, says the Grass Valley-Nevada City Union. Inside the
bag, wrapped in a blue towel, was a dead fish.
MONTANA AND ALASKA
A big bad wolf killed more than 120 sheep in eastern Montana last
year, but don’t blame one of Yellowstone’s wild wolves,
says the Billings Gazette. The culprit was a domestic animal, the
product of “human-manipulated breeding” combining genes
from wolves in the Great Lakes region, Alaska and the Lower 48 states.
“You just don’t see that Heinz 57 hodgepodge in wild
wolves,” said Carolyn Sime, head of Montana’s wolf program.
No one has a clue about where the voracious sheep-eater came from,
she added, since the domestic wolf business is a “closeted
industry.” Meanwhile, in Juneau, Alaska, a lone black wolf
dubbed “Romeo” by locals loves to romp with dogs on
frozen Mendenhall Lake; he’s even allowed people to touch
him. The Juneau Empire newspaper ran pictures of Romeo loping off
with a pet pug in his mouth, as if the dog were a rabbit. The wolf
finally dropped the pug — apparently unharmed — on its
back. Because animals that lose their fear of humans often end up
shot, state biologists may pepper the friendly wolf with beanbags
or rubber bullets to teach it to back off.
As the Salt Lake Tribune put it, “Not everything done in Vegas
stays in Vegas.” The Utah-based online genealogy service Ancestry.com
recently posted marriage and divorce records for Las Vegas from
1956 through 2005, so celebrity groupies can now look up the unions
and disunions of everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Elvis Presley.
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range,
a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (email@example.com).
Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared
in the column, Heard around the West.
New Mexico’s merchants of death
The Bush regime may have been a little confused when they told the
citizens of the United States that they were looking for weapons
of mass destruction in the Iraqi desert. They must have confused
the deserts of Iraq with the deserts of the state of New Mexico.
New Mexico has a long and storied military history. From the initial
occupation of Kearney during the United States “Manifest Destiny”
land grab, to the men who served in Bataan, we here in New Mexico
have served in the United States military. We also have become practiced
at turning blind eyes to our equally storied past of being merchants
of weapons of mass destruction for the better part of a century.
The nuclear cycle begins and ends here—from the mining of
uranium, to the research and development of nuclear weapons, to
the final disposal of nuclear waste. The state hosts three air force
bases (Kirtland, Holloman, and Cannon), a testing range (White Sands
Missile Range), an army proving ground and maneuver range (Fort
Bliss Military Reservation-McGregor Range), the technology labs
of Los Alamos and Sandia, the first national nuclear disposal site
(Waste Isolation Pilot Project), and the largest storage facility
for nuclear weapons in the world (Kirtland Underground Munitions
Storage Complex). Almost half of all U. S. spending on this nuclear
cycle occurs in New Mexico.
It was in New Mexico, starting in 1943, that the scientists at
“Site Y” (now known as Los Alamos National Laboratories)
designed, built, and tested the first nuclear weapon. It was here
in the Land of Enchantment that in the summer of 1945, the scientists
and staff of “Site Y” assembled the bombs that would
be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of the same year.
An estimated forty-four thousand people died in Hiroshima and another
four thousand in Nagasaki. Two generations later, the people and
environment still feel the effects of the radiation, and the psychological
and cultural effects are immeasurable.
Los Alamos National Laboratory was founded during World War II as
a secret, centralized facility to coordinate scientific research
of the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear weapons. The
work of the laboratory culminated in the creation of three atomic
devices, one of which was used in the first nuclear test near Alamogordo,
code named “Trinity” on July 16, 1945. The other two
were weapons, “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,”
which were used in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California was
founded to act as Los Alamos’ “competitor” with
the hope that two laboratories competing in the design of nuclear
weapons would spur innovation. Los Alamos’ current work is
mostly based around design and stockpile stewardship, which refers
to reliability testing and maintenance of its nuclear weapons.
Two other research facilities are in Albuquerque. Sandia National
Labs, located in Albuquerque, dedicates over fifty percent of its
work toward “weaponization” of nuclear warheads. The
NNSA Service Center has a contract-based mission, but according
to the Los Alamos Study Group, it also dedicates over fifty percent
of its $500 million budget to nuclear weaponry.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Southeastern New Mexico,
just outside of Carlsbad, is the world’s first underground
nuclear-waste storage facility. After more than twenty years of
scientific study, public input, and regulatory struggles, WIPP began
operations on March 26, 1999. Disposal operations are expected to
continue until 2034, with active monitoring for a further hundred
years. By 2006, the facility had already processed five thousand
shipments of waste and was holding eighty-three thousand containers
of waste. Since it is the first project of its kind, the environmental
and possible health effects on local people are unknown. In the
late fall of 2006, Governor Bill [Richardson] signed a major permit
modification allowing the site to receive hotter waste that would
account for approximately four percent of the total waste stored.
Advocates of the new permit said that it will allow the plant to
operate more efficiently. Critics have said the new permit provisions
will weaken the rigorous testing needed to keep the underground
storage facility safe. In addition to WIPP, nuclear waste is also
stored in Los Alamos.
Not surprisingly, federal military programs have been an integral
part of the state’s economy for over five decades. In fact,
development in New Mexico is heavily influenced by outside forces
that exercise great political control in the state. Since the 1840s,
extraction-type industries—mining, cattle ranching, timber,
nuclear weapons development, and now “high tech” electronics—have
exploited our natural, labor and economic resources.
New Mexico’s population of 1.9 million residents have paid
a high price for this history. New Mexico is a majority people of
color state and is also home to the second highest poverty rate
in the nation. More than twenty-five percent of the children in
our state live in poverty. We spend 5.7 times more per prisoner
than per student, and have the highest rate of uninsured children
in the country. In fact, a little over twenty percent of our entire
population lacks health insurance. Believe it or not, a little over
fifteen percent of New Mexicans live with ongoing food insecurity.
In other words, they go hungry.
These sobering statistics are difficult to comprehend, considering
that for every $1 New Mexicans pay in federal income taxes, we get
back $2.37. On paper it looks very good, and wins Senators Domenici
and Bingaman continual praise. But in fact, the bulk of that money
flows directly into military spending, with nuclear spending alone
amounting to around six percent of New Mexico’s total economy.
Very little of this spending trickles down to the broader economy.
This is illustrated by the fact that the highest concentration of
millionaires in the nation is in Los Alamos, a small town in the
mountains. Contrast this with the many small communities in New
Mexico, such as Sunland Park, that reside at the lowest per capita
income mark in the nation.
There are a few questions we need to ask ourselves, and our politicians,
when we consider how militarized our state is. First, and perhaps
foremost, do we want to forever be the state in which this immoral
and deadly production of nuclear weapons begins and ends? Is this
our legacy to the world?
Second, and equally important, do we forever want to suffer the
impoverishment and environmental hazards imposed on our people by
a government that embraces a military economy? We say NO! Our leaders
must diversify our economy, focusing on indigenous and environmentally
sound business creation, so that we are not forever at the mercy
of federal military spending.
Reprinted with permission from Voces Unidas, a
publication of the SouthWest Organizing Project, February 2007.