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Jonathan Sims is a media producer and former appointed official at the Pueblo of Acoma. He covers news and Indigenous People's issues for The Paper.

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State Hosts Tribal Summit

Two things made this year’s tribal collaboration week with the State of New Mexico stand out. For the first time ever, it was a live-streamed Zoom webinar reaching out to the leadership tuning in from their home communities. The second thing that struck me hard was the amount of concern held by these leaders. As a person in the audience, when it comes to discussions like these, the language of this session was different. Words like resilient, trust, respect, dire, dark and scary were all heard in normal discussion.

For years under former Gov. Susana Martinez, New Mexico tribes never saw her office take an active role in this government-to-government collaboration. Current Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has made it a point to sit down with tribes and hear their concerns. This year the problems seem overwhelming. COVID has brought some significant issues to light, including health care, education and social welfare. New Mexico Cabinet Secretary for Indian Affairs Lynn Trujillo opened the pre-event press conference by stating, “This pandemic has separated us in many ways, physically from each other, our families, our communities, traditions and gatherings.” She went on to express the overall feeling in the room. “In our darkest times, we have to come together to support one another, to provide food, shelter, comfort, compassion and love. As cases rise this winter, we must remain vigilant. We must take every precaution and be willing to work together.”

Governor Ortiz from the Pueblo of San Felipe appreciated the State’s hosting of the summit, saying, “We, the Pueblo of San Felipe, like many other cities in New Mexico, have been affected by the ongoing pandemic. And we continue to protect our community members as much as possible. We appreciate the continued support of Governor Lujan Grisham, Secretary Trujillo and other state agencies during these times of challenge. Now, as pandemic rates rise, our priority as tribal leaders is to ensure the safety of our tribal traditions and our future by protecting our most vulnerable elders.”

It is not all budgets and spreadsheets. As Pueblo of Acoma Governor Brian Vallo explained, “The Pueblos have collaborated with services; it has been a positive relationship during these times. We do reach out to one another, some more intimately than others, as we share data and ask for an opinion on strategies on the many issues that impact us as a result of this virus. It has been a good relationship during this time. Sometimes we call upon each other just to vent, to seek encouragement. It is powerful when I can reach out to another pueblo governor just to be heard, to express my feelings, gain insight and support and advice and encouragement; that is, and has been, a great blessing at this time.”

It is encouraging to hear these remarks from the tribal side and the state side. In a world where things can seem so fractured, I hope that these entities can work together to find positive solutions for Native people in New Mexico. This collaborative effort needs to become how all of N.M. works, as a community. [ ]

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