Native people, Taos and Sedona, the Luhans, John Collier, Charlot and much more
hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Fri Apr 12 22:11:02 MDT 2002
Note by Hunterbear:
The more functional sovereignty any Native tribal nation can maintain and
can regain and preserve -- and continue to expand -- the better. But this
present Taos, New Mexico matter, discussed in the attached short article,
is simply a broadening legal recognition of long-standing, traditional
jurisdiction. Some Anglos may see the sky falling, but I doubt very much
that most people of whatever ethnicity are flying into hysterics. Indians
certainly are not -- and I imagine most long standing non-Indian residents
of Taos aren't, either.
Taos has always had its fascinating moments. This is precisely why Mabel
[Ganson] Dodge left New York and her salon with its colorful and
challenging entities and came to Taos as the United States was becoming
enmeshed in World War I. She emerged, in soon due course, as Mabel Dodge
Luhan via her marriage to the excellent Native [Taos Pueblo] artist, Tony
Luhan. And she was followed by a flood of artists and writers, some much
better than others. And, as I've noted in previous posts, she brought her
old pre-War friend, John Collier, out to New Mexico as a long-term guest.
He arrived, knowing virtually nothing about Native tribal nations and
cultures and the compelling problems they faced [and continue to face] --
but he left Taos and the Luhans with his new, and very sturdily enduring
life-long commitment to Native people.
That splendid commitment by John Collier was, with whatever few mistakes,
reflected in his excellent work with his American Indian Defense
Association -- which he founded following his visit at Taos. Through this,
Collier, also a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt who he interested mightily
in Indian concerns, pushed for repeal of the massively land-stealing Dawes
Act [General Allotment Act] and related measures and policies; fought for
the preservation and support of all Native tribes and cultures as living,
vital entities; and pushed vigorously for Native American religious and
political and economic rights. All of these efforts and others were signal
components of his essentially successful Indian New Deal which characterized
his long tenure [1933-1945] as FDR's Indian Commissioner.
Although the Collier policies were savagely attacked from the latter 1940s
through the 1950s, by many of the Western politicians and their Eastern
counterparts and their land hungry oil and mining and lumbering and ranching
constituents -- often using the Cold War atmosphere as their cover to
generate such anti-Native policies as "urban relocation" and
"termination" -- much of Collier's fine work ultimately endured and
prevailed. [As do our Native people!] John Collier's labors all served as
a foundation for -- at whatever glacial pace and occasional set-backs --
newer Native American policy victories [e.g., Indian Self-Determination Act
of 1975 and the National Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and some
other significant measures.]
I was fortunate as a child and young person to occasionally visit Santa Fe
and Taos -- where my parents had many good friends. En route from Flagstaff
on long narrow highways, we would always stop at Laguna Pueblo [west of
Albuquerque] and then at San Felipe Pueblo [north of Albuquerque] -- where
our friends have been numerous over several generations.
Closer to home, the wintering cow-town of Sedona -- in and below Oak Creek
Canyon and just south of Flagstaff in a warmer clime -- drew a number of
fine artists and writers in the post-World War II era: e.g., Max Ernst,
ground-breaking surrealist from Germany; Cecil Murdock, a fine Kickapoo
Indian painter; Nassan Abiskaroun, very productive Egyptian sculptor;
excellent writer Robert Kittredge; and others. My folks spent a fair amount
of time at Sedona -- as did, in due course, Ned and Jessica Danson from the
Museum of Northern Arizona [ the people also known as the parents of present
actor, Ted Danson.]
My Native father's ties with Indian Mexico were dramatically forged at an
early age. Jean Charlot, a very close, life-long family friend whose life
span [1898-1979] was almost precisely that of my father --exceeding his by
only one year -- and whose trails with Dad's had intersected and paralleled
at many points before he [Charlot] settled at the University of Hawaii, was,
with his, wife Zohmah and children, a very frequent summer visitor of ours
at Flagstaff and a sojourner, with my parents at Sedona -- as well as in the
Hopi and Navajo country. They all spent much time in Mexico. Jean Charlot
was, first and foremost, a Mexican Indian artist. His father, Henri, had
been a French businessman and free spirit who was also an early Bolshevik
sympathizer -- and who'd been, by various vagaries of migration, born and
reared in Russia. Jean Charlot's mother, Anna, was an artist and the
daughter of Louis Goupil, a native of Mexico City who was French and Mexican
Indian. Charlot was a long-time assistant of Diego Rivera [patron of
Trotsky] -- and a colleague and friend, among others, of radical artists
David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco.
In addition to all of these very constructive influences, I should add, I
myself sometimes ran an extensive and successful trap-line northwest of
Sedona in Dry Creek Basin, at the mouth and up into Boynton Canyon and
Secret Mountain -- before I embarked forever on the high seas of Saving the
Regrettably, Sedona has never been privileged -- as has Taos -- to be
immediately adjacent to a Native tribal nation reservation. Perhaps, lacking
those very positive influences, that's why Sedona gradually became inundated
with right-wing types and then New Age Nonsense. Long before that,
virtually all of Sedona's solid folk moved away. My parents sold their
Sedona land. The Charlots continued to visit my folks at Flagstaff -- and
they all went to Mexico -- but they didn't go down to Sedona. After my
father died, my two brothers and I -- with Mother's consent -- sold the
sizeable acreage we held well below Sedona, on Lower Oak Creek, at
Cornville. That setting, too, had become loaded with non-creative
out-of-staters and our old Yavapai Indian friends and small Chicano rancher
amigos had sold their places to Big League Ball Players. We sold our land
to a Phoenix doctor who was grateful to escape.
Nice to see Taos still kicking up its heels. There's much to be said for
the creatively flaring pitchy-pine and the enduring oak-wood fires of
Hunter Gray [ Hunterbear ]
www.hunterbear.org ( social justice )
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
New Mexico Town Is on Indian Land, and in Limbo
By MICHAEL JANOFSKY
TAOS, N.M., April 11 - Early last year, the local police arrested Del E.
Romero, a member of the Taos Pueblo, on charge of aggravated battery after a
man was severely beaten in a parking lot here. On probation at the time, Mr.
Romero was sent to jail.
But he was lucky the incident happened where it did.
A state judge dismissed the charge last month because of customs and laws,
originating with the king of Spain in the 1500's, that have preserved
certain lands throughout the southwestern United States as "Indian country,"
no matter where they are or who owns the buildings on them.
Until the judge, Peggy J. Nelson, ruled, few people in Taos knew that half
the town, including the parking lot where the incident occurred, is on
Indian land, part of a grant to indigenous people by Spain that was upheld
by Mexico after it won independence in 1821, and by the United States after
New Mexico became a territory in 1853 and a state in 1912.
Indian lands, even if not connected to a reservation, are sovereign, like
foreign countries, and only tribal and federal authorities have the right to
arrest and prosecute American Indians accused of committing crimes on them.
Courts in other states, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Florida,
have upheld the standard in similar cases.
Now Mr. Romero, 32, is free, and many Taos residents are wondering what
impact Judge Nelson's ruling will have on this famous art community of
6,000. Already, limited resources prevent federal and tribal authorities
from pursuing every criminal case on Indian land, and now fears are mounting
that state and local authorities may be less aggressive, knowing that a
defense lawyer can raise the issue of venue and have the case thrown out.
Reflecting on Judge Nelson's ruling, Chief Neil W. Curran of the Taos Police
Department, said, "Once it becomes common knowledge, and you're a Native
American inclined to become involved with something like shoplifting, you'll
know to do it in Indian country."
The implications of the ruling were not lost on Judge Nelson. In a letter
explaining how history and cases elsewhere influenced her decision, she told
Mr. Romero's public defender, Alan Maestas, and the local district
attorney's office that Congress needed to clarify issues of jurisdiction
over all Indian lands.
For now, the matter is in the courts. The state has appealed the ruling to
the New Mexico Court of Appeals, and each side expects the loser to petition
the state Supreme Court to hear the case. Eventually, it may go to the
United States Supreme Court, which some legal experts say has eroded tribal
Speaking last week in Albuquerque at the Federal Bar Association's annual
conference on Indian law, Senior Judge William C. Canby Jr. of the federal
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco said this is "a
terrible time for tribes to find themselves in court, especially the Supreme
Representative Tom Udall, a Democrat whose district includes Taos, said
Congress had not examined the issues. But until it does, Mr. Udall said, he
urges local, state and federal law enforcement officials to define their
responsibilities for the sake of "comfort in the community."
Chief Curran said that after Judge Nelson ruled, Mayor Frederick A. Peralta
and Town Attorney Tomas Benavidez told him to respond to crimes as if
nothing had changed.
But the larger concern, Chief Curran said, is how the police will handle a
case, and already there are uncertainties. Despite telling the force's 17
officers that their work will proceed as usual, Chief Curran said an officer
responding to an assault last Sunday night called him at home to ask if he
should investigate what happened.
"So it has already caused problems," Chief Curran said. "The officer had to
call me for direction."
Beyond that, residents who live or work in the north side of town, which
includes the historic square, galleries and hotels, said they wonder what
may happen with the crimes like shoplifting or drunken driving that tribal
authorities and agents from the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Indian Affairs
judge not worth pursuing.
Felonies are prosecuted by the federal government. Norm Cairns, an assistant
United States attorney for New Mexico, said his office had also prosecuted
some misdemeanors. But in the case of other offenses, Mr. Cairns said,
"logistics, manpower and resources have to be taken into consideration."
Senior officials with the Taos Pueblo declined to comment, pending final
review of Judge Nelson's ruling. A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Indian
Affairs, Nedra Darling, did not respond to requests for information.
To Chief Curran and the local district attorney, Donald Gallegos, any
problems in the short term can be addressed by deputizing police and
sheriff's department officers as federal agents, something Mr. Udall said
could be done without Congressional involvement. Meanwhile, Chief Curran
said, "We have encouraged the United States attorney to prosecute the Romero
All that brings little solace to people like Mike Neglia, whose father owns
the Taos General Store, which faces the parking lot where Mr. Romero is
accused of beating a man.
"It's very concerning," he said of uncertainties about law enforcement
response. "We have just two middle-aged ladies working here. It would be
easy for a couple of guys to take what they want and leave. We could call
the cops. But then what?"
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