This piece is offered as a part of our Indigeneity series: news and analysis from Native journalists and columnists.
By Jonathan Sims
As the Native world turns its cultural and secular calendars toward a new year, one of those highlights is the announcement of incoming officials.
For our readers who aren’t in the loop, there are 19 Pueblos in New Mexico, one in Texas, plus the Navajo Nation, The Jicarilla Apache and The Mescalero Apache. Some of these tribes have a “western or constitutional” model of government. These tribes vote their leadership into office. The Navajo Nation, for instance, the largest tribe in the country, will swear in its youngest president ever, Buu Nygren, and their first woman VP, Richelle Montoya Chee, this year. So will Pueblos like Zuni and Laguna, Zuni electing Arden Kucate as their new Governor and Laguna choosing Governor Wilfred Herrera, Jr.
However, there are still quite a few “traditional” government Pueblos today. These communities appoint their leadership and cultural roles for the year. No voting happens in these places; the appointee can be anyone the Tribe sees fit to take on the job of leading their people for the next year.
Why is this a big deal? Well, New Mexico’s tribes are very active in the political realm at the state and federal levels. These leaders make decisions that not only affect their small communities but can set precedents for all Tribal nations. When you look at the Pueblos, the charter of the All Pueblo Council of Governors (once called All Indian Pueblo Council) was made in 1598—making it one of the oldest organizations in North America. Every new year these Pueblo leaders meet in a show of unity. Before the Spanish, Pueblo's traditional forms of government existed. After the Spanish moved into the region, they introduced a second system of government to the Pueblos that was answerable to the crown, thus creating the outward-facing roles of Governor, 1st and 2nd Lt. Governors. They presented the Pueblos with “Canes of Authority,” silver-topped wooden canes representing their authority under Spanish rule. The United States followed suit, gifting the "Lincoln Canes" to our leaders in 1863.
It is one of the ultimate lessons in life to be called upon to be a leader in your community. Some people's roles come with high visibility, but there are many others in our communities that have been appointed or taken an office that are not listed here. We thank them and offer up blessings on the new year for those in positions as assistants or other cultural roles.
I'll never forget the day I was appointed. Eating breakfast early on Dec. 28 in the old village (Sky City, Pueblo of Acoma), getting ready to send our family member who had carried one of these positions for the year out the door one last time. Then there was a knock at the door. My mother-in-law opened the door to find two Tribal sheriffs standing there. “Is Jonathan Sims married into this home?” Immediately I knew my life would never be the same. The ladies in the home cried. They understood what this meant—the sacrifices you must make. Your career, your family and your mental health will all be tested. Appointed or elected, those individuals now carry their communities on their shoulders, the weight of which is something very tangible.
So to all tribal leadership, may you find peace and love within your homes. Lead our communities with power, grace and dignity. Below is the listing for each Pueblo's Governor and Lt. Governor and contact information.
Pueblo of Acoma - 505 552-6604
Pueblo of Cochiti - 505-629-4285
Pueblo of Isleta - (505) 869-3111
Pueblo of Jemez - 575-834-7359
Pueblo of Laguna - 505-552-6654
Pueblo of Nambe - 505-455-2036
Ohkay Owingeh - 505-852-4400
Pueblo of Picuris - 575-587-2519
Pueblo of Pojoaque - 505-455-5052
Pueblo of San Felipe - 505-867-3381
Pueblo of San Ildefonso - 505-455-4101
Pueblo of Sandia - 505-867-3317
Pueblo of Santa Ana - 505-867-3301
Pueblo of Santa Clara - 505-753-7330
Pueblo of Santo Domingo - 505-465-2214
Pueblo of Taos - 575-758-9593
Pueblo of Tesuque - 505-955-7733
Pueblo of Ysleta del Sur - 915-859-8053
Pueblo of Zia - 505-337-2104
Pueblo of Zuni - 505-782-7022
Navajo Nation - 928-871-6369
Jicarilla Nation - 575-759-3242
Mescalero - 575 - 464 4494
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