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re: US 550 connectivity proposal through
indigenous lands threatens long-term survival
This letter addresses the County line article
“Easing Traffic Congestion,” put forth by Commissioner
Jack Thomas, though my concerns address a much broader audience.
Thomas is but one man, doing his job as a commissioner. The issue,
though, involves more at stake than he alone can be responsible
Obviously, the movement of traffic through
the Bernalillo-Rio Rancho area is a principal concern, and by looking
at the US 550 Connectivity Study, presented in June, obvious key
issues have been identified. However, there remain issues that necessitate
comprehensive acknowledgement and hold a level of importance greater
than the convenience of commuters or the promise of “tremendous
economic development opportunities” that Thomas and all others
involved must consider.
Proposing corridors to alleviate traffic problems
that suggest placing a major thoroughfare through the heart of an
indigenous community, through traditional homelands, is an insult.
In fact, I perceive any US 550 connectivity proposal through indigenous
lands as an outright threat to our long-term survival and to the
cultural tenets that entrust us as stewards to these traditional
lands. Degradation of tribal residents' lifestyle, loss of cultural
resources, and the fragmentation and reduction of tribal land base
for the sake of commuters is obscene. Proposing that we accept a
reduction of air quality, inducing a threat to the health of our
community members, an increase in audible noise and litter, the
potential for hazmat and vehicle fluids to contaminate our land
and water sources is much too great a trade-off for the convenience
of others. The successful efforts of tribal programs and staff to
restore and enhance wildlife habitats, native flora, and the natural
environment would be snubbed. Problems extant in “vibrant”
communities are not for ours. To clarify, Rio Rancho's future is
not our future.
More and more we see that those involved in
the future and growth of Rio Rancho are often not from New Mexico,
and have no concept, apparently, about New Mexico's indigenous people,
about what a homeland, heritage, or a discernable past means. I
stand clear on this issue that residents from any indigenous community
proposed to be affected by the hindsight of development planning
and the continued cyclic application of aggressive expansionism
will not be made to bear the consequences and detrimental effects
of proposed fixes.
—M. GARCIA, Santa Ana Pueblo
re: tribal land is homeland, not throughway
I read the article in the December Signpost by Jack Thomas, chairman
of the Sandoval County Commission, and felt the need to respond.
I am a member of the Pueblo of Santa Ana and have lived here all
of my life. This is my homeland and I cherish the land that I live
on. This is where I will spend the rest of my life, surrounded by
the beauty of the mesas, the bosque, and the rangeland. I begin
each day viewing the mesas and surrounding landscape and embrace
the beauty of the land. This is my tradition, my culture, my values,
and my heritage.
I consider myself fortunate to live in a rural area where we can
still see the stars at night and wake up to peace and quiet in the
morning. The tradition of our people is to always leave the land
the way we came into it for the future generations to come.
I feel that the Northwest Loop, or 550 Bypass, as it has been called,
running through our pueblo will bisect our land and take away from
our people the peace and quiet of our homeland. Rio Rancho's sprawl
is not our problem to solve. Rio Rancho, the City of Vision, should
have planned for the amount of people they are bringing into their
urban sprawl community. We are not responsible for solving their
This is our homeland. We can not just pick up and move away. I
do not want to live the rest of my life caught in a triangle of
three major highways. The noise and pollution from car exhaust,
road spills, and trash would destroy the beauty of our homeland
and the values we enjoy and have a right to continue to enjoy forever.
Our future generations deserve to inherit the land the way it is
All the money in the world can not bring back the land once it
is lost to development and roadways. I oppose the Northwest Loop/550
Bypass and urge those in charge of transportation planning and growth
management to look for alternative solutions.
—LAURA PENA, TRIBAL MEMBER, Santa Ana Pueblo
re: No trespassing on Indian land
The article in the Sandoval Signpost “County Line-Easing
Traffic Congestion,” by Jack Thomas, Chairman, Sandoval County
Commission, Vol 18. No.12, December 2006, whereby Mr. Thomas states
that Sandoval County has approached the Pueblo of Santa Ana regarding
possible access across Pueblo land. If these discussions are successful,
the Northwest Loop would connect with I-25 North of Bernalillo.
As Indian people, we have aggressively pursued the “right
to self-determination.” Our ancestors made sacrifices so that
we might retain what little land we now hold. Now, it is our responsibility
to carry-on that struggle to protect our tribal lands!
It is no easy task, the challenge is before us as tribal members
of Santa Ana Pueblo to ensure that our future is not “negotiable,”
just to ease heavy traffic on U.S. 550, N.M. 528 and throughout
Sandoval County’s traffic congestion deficiencies need to
be addressed back to the county for other solutions! This is not
a tribal problem!
Historically, the treatment of Native peoples of America, in which
we were systematically and violently divested of our lands in the
name of Manifest Destiny!
Indian people with “self-respect” would defend the (2)
two most important things: “the land” and “the
people!” What we say does matter! We are responsible for this
The Santa Ana Tribal Council in 2003 voted against any further
discussions or feasibility studies with Sandoval County regarding
this issue. The Tribal Council did the right thing to defend and
protect our sovereignty.
Mr. Thomas, what you are saying is, “appropriate economic
development will only alleviate your worst fears.” “Pay
the Indians off and move on!”
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 or the press. Today, I address this
issue on U.S. 550 and exercise my “First Amendment”
right to free speech.
—MANUEL R. CRISTOBAL, SANTA ANA TRIBAL COUNCILMAN, Santa
re: thanks to all who made Optimist Club’s Blessings Day
The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in New Mexico, especially
in Sandoval County.
It is said every year that Christmas is a time of giving, but
this year was an exception.
The Optimist Club de Sandoval, again this year, did their Blessings
Day project. We were able to provide fifty-two families with food,
new and gently used clothing, and new toys. We could not have done
it without the help of the generous and supportive communities of
Placitas and Bernalillo, who gave generously of products and monies.
We would like to thank the Rotary Club for their generous donation;
the parishioners of Mission de San Antonio, who graciously took
names of children to gift from the Giving Tree; the Jardineros de
Placitas, who donated all the turkeys; neighbors and friends who
provided gifts for entire families; people we don’t know,
too numerous to name here, who reached into their pockets and donated.
All of this came together on December 16, when there was a wrapping
party. The wrappers, who wrapped and bagged the gifts, gave four
hours of their valuable time. On December 20 the Sandoval County
Sheriff’s Department took time out of their schedule to make
deliveries to all the families.
How do we express our gratitude for such generosity? There is no
way other than a simple thank-you. So we will say to all who participated
in Blessings Day, Know that the spirit of Christmas lives in your
heart all year. God bless.
—FRAN STEPHENS, OPTIMIST CLUB DE SANDOVAL
re: finding face
Dear Friends Back East:
You have chosen to respond to my description of the wonderful spiritual
and mystical qualities that help comprise New Mexico life and culture
by asking if I have yet seen the faces of religious figures in my
food—as periodically happens to other people, including the
individual who sold the grilled cheese sandwich on eBay some time
I suspect you are making fun of me, but am uncertain. Perhaps you're
just displeased that you've yet to see the faces of the Rockettes—or
perhaps John Gotti—appear in your Rice Krispies along with
Snap, Crackle, and Pop. But I will answer your question as best
Although I've only lived here a short time, I frankly doubt that
such a spiritual experience will occur to a career heathen such
as myself, i.e., I fear that I'm simply incapable of recognizing
the faces of religious entities in my food any more than they could
identify my countenance were it to appear in their own vittles.
My limitations in this area are further complicated by the fact
that I prefer to eat food items that match the color and texture
of the clothes I happen to be wearing—admittedly a peculiar
habit, but one that gives me a sense of order and security to say
nothing of camouflage. Unfortunately, most of my garments are in
rather plain, subdued earth tones. Such monotonous colors, when
in foodstuffs, are less likely to provide the variations and contrasts
necessary for distinguishing important characteristics such as mustaches,
beards, eyewear, hairlines, birthmarks, tattoos, and the like, critical
to solid identification of persons or body parts.
This is not to say, however, there have never been exceptions to
the above or that I am totally unreceptive to human images in my
food. For example, the face of Louisa May Alcott recently appeared
in a bag of caramel corn that I was consuming on my patio. Unfortunately,
my Maine coon cat, Patrick, bumped my arm as I was studying this
phenomenon, and the image quickly morphed into that of Gene Autry
(in left profile) before disappearing entirely.
I should also mention—though it has nothing to do with food—that
I live near a rock quarry in which the back-up alarms of countless
ever-moving trucks normally produce an obnoxious discordant din
throughout the day. Last week, a miraculous combination of volume,
traffic patterns, and alarm tones resulted in these vehicles playing
about thirty seconds of “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” followed
by a near-complete verse of “Walkin' My Baby Back Home,”
before lapsing back into grating atonality.
My existence back east never provided me with experiences such
as the above, so perhaps life in my newly adopted Land of Enchantment
is honing my receptors somewhat. If such incidents ever involve
religious figures, I shall let you know. In the meantime, Happy
New Year and good luck with the Rockettes-Gotti thing. Try caramel
—YOUR FRIEND, HERB, Placitas
Heard around the West
CANADA AND IDAHO
Spurred by global warming or just plain wanderlust, a female polar
bear and a male grizzly got together six years ago for what Borat
would call “sexy-time.” What the encounter produced
might be dubbed a “pizzly” or a “grolarbear.”
The male hybrid was shot earlier this year on a remote Arctic island
by Jim Martell, 66, a wealthy Idaho hunter, and DNA examination
confirms that it is indeed a new kind of bear. Martell and his Inuit
guides first assumed the white furry animal was a polar bear.
But closer examination revealed anomalies: long claws, a humped
back, black-ringed eyes and a dishy face — just like a grizzly’s.
After spending seven months with a taxidermist, reports The Edmonton
Journal, the bear went to Martell’s home in Glenns Ferry,
a town of 1,400 east of Boise. The full-body mount won’t be
there long. Martell, who prefers to call his kill a “polargrizz,”
plans to show it off at a Nevada hunting expo in January. Bagging
the bear was not cheap: Martell paid $50,000 for the hunt and $10,000
for the stuffed carcass.
Which is more important: opening your garage door, or homeland security?
That was the knotty question facing Colorado Springs after the Air
Force appropriated a particular frequency — one so common
that it is used by an estimated 50 million garage-door openers nationwide.
The Associated Press says the answer was a no-brainer for folks
in the patriotic city. The Air Force has since shut down its signal
while it tries to solve the problem, but if it’s unable to
adjust the frequency, more than 400 complaining residents will have
to install new units. Holly Stack, who lives near Cheyenne Mountain
Air Station, joked, “I never thought my garage door was a
threat to national security.”
A handsome buck with an impressive rack of antlers turned out to
be a female, much to the astonishment of the hunter who killed it,
reports The Week magazine. “It’s got no male
utilities,” said Carmen Erickson. “It has teats.”
PEEReview, the magazine of Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility, says the National Park Service is making no friends
with its new policy of charging visitors for activities ranging
from taking photos of large groups to having weddings. Prices vary
from park to park, and the rationales seem to vary as well: “Mount
Rainier National Park charges $60 for filming and $60 for a wedding
… but only $25 for scattering of ashes — the ultimate
Thanks to his upbringing in the shadow of Chicago’s Midway
International Airport, Jim Oakley is no stranger to “the ceaseless
din of high-powered engines,” reports the Boulder Daily
Camera. That’s fortunate: Oakley had just bought a new
house in Erie, Colo., population 10,000, when a big dog of a neighbor
moved in just 100 yards away from him — a 100-foot-tall drill
rig belonging to EnCana Oil & Gas USA. It features “a
deafening roar” and sports bright lights so it can drill 24
hours a day, seven days a week. EnCana’s arrival brought other
surprises as well, such as a constant flow of trucks and heavy equipment.
The good news for Oakley is that the company, which leased the mineral
rights to 35 acres, plans to cease drilling by the end of the year.
ARIZONA AND WASHINGTON, D.C.
The Kaibab National Forest south of Grand Canyon issued Christmas
tree-cutting permits for the Tusayan Ranger District, but specified
they were only for “Piñon or Jupiter.” Writer
Peter Friederici says he’s not sure what a Jupiter tree looks
like, “but I’ll sure be keeping my eyes open for one.”
In the U.S. capital, meanwhile, the Park Service’s PR chief
apparently leads a double life, with one involving a kitchen. Explaining
why his new boss, agency director Mary Bomar, wasn’t ready
to give interviews, David Barna signed his e-mail “Chef of
Public Affairs, National Park Service.”
Should school buses ferrying public schoolchildren shill for America’s
Next Top Model? The Denver Post says “a handful” of
Colorado districts have decided to pay for rising transportation
costs by putting ads on their buses. Douglas County, near Denver,
has joined affluent Cherry Creek in the practice, hoping to make
a hefty $13,000 a month. Not all parents are supportive, and Commercial
Alert, an Oregon-based nonprofit group, blasts school districts
that use advertising to put “our children up for sale.”
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 Heard around the West.