Indigenous leaders and activists call for solution for To’Hajiilee water crisis

Indigenous community leaders and activists held a virtual information session on Indigenous People’s Day to bring awareness to a water crisis in To’Hajiilee, a Diné community 20 miles west of Albuquerque. 

The community of roughly 2,500 is currently relying on just one supply well, which pumps water up from the Rio Puerco aquifer. The water levels in the aquifer have dropped in recent decades, and what water that’s left is filled with corrosive dissolved solids that eat through the pump equipment and wreak havoc on the indoor plumbing systems of the residents in To’Hajiilee. 

The Navajo Nation owns rights to surface water that could be piped into To’Hajiilee and serve the community. To’Hajiilee and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) have already devised a project plan to build a pipeline that would transport the water from a holding tank in the county’s far western boundaries to To’Hajiilee. 

But plans to access and transport that water are being thwarted by a development firm that hasn’t agreed to sell a two-mile easement for the pipeline. RELATED: A ‘humanitarian crisis’: To’Hajiilee’s aquifer is running out of water

“I thought today would be a really, really important day and an important message to share in front of my children that we are important, we are here, we need to be seen, we need to be heard and what better day to do it than on Indigenous People’s Day,” said Renee Chaco Aragon, a resident of To’Hajiilee and mother of ten. “We need people that are willing to listen, take time out of their lives and out of their day, to help us in our crisis.”

It’s not uncommon for the community’s single supply well to go down, Aragon said, disrupting daily life for everyone in the community. 

“It is a very nerve-wracking thing to deal with on a day to day basis.

Lawmakers pass bill to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Goodbye, Christopher Columbus. New Mexico may observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead. The Senate voted 22-15 Friday to send Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham a bill that would rename the holiday commemorating the Italian explorer. The legislation comes as the holiday that took off in the late 19th century as a celebration of Italian-American heritage has in recent decades spurred debate over the real legacy of a man who represents the beginning of European colonialism in the Americas and how best to tell a fuller story of the continent’s history. “I see this as a reconciliation process, not only as New Mexicans but as Americans,” said Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo.

Censure of ABQ city council pres withdrawn

The recent blow up in the Albuquerque City Council over comments made by Council President Rey Garduño came to a quick end on Monday night during a council meeting. Earlier this month, Councilor Dan Lewis criticized Garduño for disparaging remarks towards councilors who cast a dissenting vote on a proposed Indigenous People’s Day proclamation. Lewis issued a memo that called for the censure of Garduño, but within the first 20 minutes of Monday’s meeting, Lewis announced he was withdrawing his proposal, followed by applause from the audience. The withdrawal came just after Garduño issued a public apology to his councilors for previously calling them “cowards.”

“For that, I’m a sorry. I regret my choice of words,” Garduño said.

Garduño addresses Indigenous Peoples Day proclamation flap

Albuquerque City Council President Rey Garduño addressed the reaction that started with a proclamation stating that the second Monday in October would be Indigenous Peoples Day. As part of the statement released on Thursday afternoon, Garduño said that he would introduce a resolution to “more formally recognize Indigenous Peoples Day.” The designation is on the same day as the federal Columbus Day holiday, which the City of Albuquerque does not recognize. The city council voted 6-3 to approve the proclamation, but the hurried timeline and statements by Garduño led city councilor Dan Lewis to say he would seek to censure the city council president. Lewis objected to comments Garduño made after the passage of the proclamation.

ABQ clears Columbus Day references from website, Twitter

A number of cities across the United States are ditching Columbus Day for Indigenous People’s Day, with Albuquerque being one of the most recent to do so. Outgoing City Council President Rey Garduño recently introduced a proclamation that names the second Monday of October in Albuquerque as Indigenous Peoples Day. While Albuquerque does not officially observe Columbus Day as the federal and state government do, the city still had to take down references to the old holiday from its website and Twitter account. City services were available on Monday and workers did not receive the day off. As late as Monday morning, there was mention of Columbus Day on both Twitter and cabq.gov, the official city website.

Call for censure of ABQ council president

With just weeks left until the President of the Albuquerque City Council will step down, another member is calling for him to be officially censured. Councilor Dan Lewis drafted a memo to Council President Rey Garduño, accusing the latter of inciting public outcry by making inappropriate comments about other councilors. Lewis wrote that when Garduño successfully passed a proclamation to create an Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day, he publicly admonished his colleagues who disagreed with the measure. “Subsequently, you made a number of public statements to the media in which you condemned those Councilors for not signing the Proclamation, even going so far as to say that they were ‘cowards,’ Lewis wrote in his memo. “In so doing, you intentionally exposed your fellow Councilors to scorn and derision, when even the most basic communication with those Councilors would have revealed a common interest in truly honoring our indigenous neighbors and friends.”

In his memo, Lewis admitted this is not the first time he aimed to censure Garduño.