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Ashkia Trujillo of Ohkay Owingeh awoke to a startling video the morning of Monday, Dec. 28 as he scrolled through social media. Little did he know that four days later he would find himself accompanied by groups of supporters, including the man whose cell phone-captured assault video went viral and reached the highest offices in the country. That video, released to social media by Darrell House on Dec. 17, sent a shockwave through not only Indian Country but the country as a whole. In the days that followed, the video of House, an unarmed Native man, being Tased at will by a National Park Service officer for the initial offense of “being off-trail” resulted in public outcry.
But that Monday morning, the video hit Trujillo differently. His father was a Marine Corps vet and Ashkia Trujillo himself is of Navajo heritage—just like Darrell House.
Seeing the disrespect and also the pain and fear House had for his life at that moment struck Trujillo hard. He felt had to do something. He sat and wrote a letter. He made a phone call. But he felt that wasn’t enough. He knew something more needed to be done. He needed to bring awareness to this situation—and it needed to be peaceful. The idea came to him that he should walk in prayer and solidarity with Mr. House. He would carry a prayer staff and the flag of the Marine Corps. He didn’t have much of a plan beyond that. He expected it would take him a few days and was ready to rough it.
Some 24 hours later, on a cold Tuesday at dawn and 30 miles north of Santa Fe, Trujillo said his goodbyes to his mother and family and began his trek. Before he left he made a short Instagram video. That small video has since been viewed over 100,000 times and was what fueled others to help him in his journey. Before he hit Santa Fe that first afternoon, Trujillo attracted many individuals as well as some small organizations, all offering support. Some offered to literally rub his feet, and some were able to help him find a room to stay in and meals to eat.
Trujillo’s mother, Roz Carrol, was there to see her son finish his nearly 100-mile journey at the Petroglyph National Monument on Saturday, Jan. 2.
“He started off alone, and yet he finished with so many people here,” she explained. “My son Ashkia Trujillo decided that there needed to be some awareness and be proactive in working with individuals that may not know Native people or be aware of the Native culture of having an understanding of Native people. So for that reason, his walk became a prayer walk to bring awareness to the issue and to solicit support and advocacy and educate individuals.”
The group of about 33 gathered at the entrance gate of the Petroglyph Monument alongside House. The group said private prayers for a few moments. That was followed by drum songs sung by Trujillo in honor of the ancestors, their journey and to honor his father and family.
The group’s presence brought the attention of Albuquerque city police, who sent a few scouts out to assess the situation, while about 15 police cars were parked across the street at the local elementary school and at the entrance to the park. They asked a few questions and, much to the amazement of the group, didn’t engage any further—despite the rather large group of officers at the ready. Trujillo implored people to not engage or be disrespectful. “No more hatred or anger. I want to leave these grounds like that, so please no confrontation,” he told people.
A prayer of understanding and healing went out to all those involved personally and to those hurt by what they saw around the globe as this situation worked its way through the media cycle. Darrell House, although in attendance, did not make any personal public statements. Instead, he was greeted, blessed and found the support of many in the group as they talked to him privately.
Trujillo left with this message: “Peace and unity are two things that we need. Understanding as well. People need to understand [that] for Native people church isn’t always a building. Church for us is where your two feet stand.”
The National Park Service will continue its review of the situation and release its findings. Subsequently, other groups are calling for legal action against the Park Service officer who tased House, and this case is nowhere near being resolved. The Petroglyphs are not only a part of Albuquerque but a part of all tribal people in the area. Its creation as a national park served to protect this space, but development and management have always been issues.
For the time being there may not be justice, but because of one man’s walk and recognizing a need for action there will at least be a sense of peace again on sacred land.
On December 28, The Paper.’s Jonathan Sims was the first reporter to publish news of the Tasing of Darrell House by an NPS ranger at Petroglyph National Monument. The story has been reported and retold hundreds of times online since.
Jon Sims continues to follow this story.
Read more about this developing story at The Paper.
– VIDEO: Park Ranger Tases Native Man Visting Sacred Site at Petroglyph National Monument | The Paper.
– Park Service Releases More Details in Tasering Incident | The Paper.
– Congresswoman Haaland Responds to Tasering of Native man | The Paper.