Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

On Sunday New Mexico’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-2 to amend Tribal Consensus plans regarding redistricting in the State Senate in SB-2, despite widespread opposition from tribal leaders, Native representatives and community advocates. The Tribal Consensus plans were the product of months of research and communication among Native leaders to accurately represent Native communities in the upcoming redistricting for State Senate districts. According to NM Native Vote, the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee’s actions were a direct disregard to months of work and communication by New Mexico’s Native governmental entities.

“It was disrespectful to not do any consultation with any of our tribal nations on the maps that they put in front of us this morning. It was disrespectful to limit our leaders’ speaking time to only a minute,” Pueblo of Laguna Governor Martin Kowemy stated in a press release. “I was upset that our leaders’ testimony didn’t seem to make an impact on the committee members and that they already seemed to have their minds made up. We have spent eight months working towards redistricting consensus. Our leaders will maintain the unity that carried us through the CRC, and I hope that we can move forward.”

In an interview with The Paper. a spokesperson for NM Native Vote noted that, despite Native representatives explicitly voicing their concerns toward amending the Tribal Consensus plans, the committee went forward with it anyway.

Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, who introduced the committee substitute that amended the bill, stated that the move to go forward with the substitute in SB-2 was to gain bipartisan support. But according to NM Native Vote, that approach failed to recognize that moving forward with a proposed bill that did not include the Tribal Consensus plans might compromise the Native vote in upcoming elections. 

“The Pueblo of Acoma is very disappointed in the outcome of the Senate Judiciary hearing, relative to not moving forward Senate Bill 2 and supporting the consensus map of the tribes of the State of New Mexico including the Pueblo of Acoma,” Acoma Governor Brian Vallo said. “We are disheartened by this action from the committee. We anticipate that if the Senate continues its actions with a total disregard for the tribes’ contributions to this redistricting process, the outcome of it all will be to the detriment of tribal communities, to the process of redistricting and to the relationships that we’ve all worked very hard to develop between our state leadership and the Legislature.”

“My observations on what occurred today leave me feeling very discouraged, because this was a unilateral approach from the tribes. Senate Bill 2 was built on a foundation of complying with the Voting Rights Act and traditional redistricting principles. So, all the work that has been done and all the tribal leaders that have been involved … well, it’s disappointing that our right to self-determination was not honored in the process. And we still support SB-2 in its original form,” Pueblo of Zuni Councilman Arden Kucate said.