A Tribal Education Trust Fund guarantees a fundamental right

As a former governor of Tesuque Pueblo and current chair of the All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG), I am forever grateful to the late Judge Sarah Singleton for ruling in Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico that Native American students have a constitutional right have a culturally and linguistically relevant education.

APCG leaders, who collectively serve as a diplomatic arm and shield to protect against threats to the traditional Pueblo way of life, have expressed support for the Yazzie/Martinez court decision and developed and endorsed the Tribal Remedy Framework, which includes a more comprehensive Plan to meet the needs of local students.

Now the APCG offers a tribal response to the court ruling that is consistent with the Tribal Remedy Framework: We Demand the Establishment of a Tribal Education Trust Fund.

The APCG has worked diligently to develop and pass Resolution #2022-18 supporting the establishment of a Tribal Education Trust Fund for the care and preservation of our precious languages ​​and traditions. He urges the state legislature and executive to set up such a permanent fund with a significant investment of state resources.

In 1993, as a newly appointed Tesuque tribal councilor and later the APCG delegate for governor, I was aware of a deep-felt intergenerational frustration among Pueblo leaders at younger tribal members being educated in a westernized public school system – one that embraced Pueblo traditions, -Cultures and languages ​​ignored and threatened. Pueblo people have always maintained within our communities a dual obligation to be literate and civic ready both in our tribal way of life and in the world at large.

As COVID-19 swept across the country, public gatherings were halted by health regulations. The Pueblos discontinued their traditional cultural practices to protect our knowledge bearers, culture bearers and our people. This affected our usual systems of knowledge transfer – often verbally between older and younger generations. In addition, poor technological infrastructure in tribal areas hindered our children’s education. Despite this, we have found creative ways to protect our traditional way of life and continue to educate our youth.

Throughout history, Pueblo people have faced similar threats to our existence and way of life. Yet our wonderful cultural knowledge systems have continued unabated and the transfer from one generation to the next continues.

But the protection of Pueblo traditions, languages ​​and cultures is also a state obligation. Our children spend countless hours in public school classrooms.

We need complementary student programs and services to support our children in our communities after school. A tribal education trust fund would secure much needed resources to build capacity within tribal education departments to better serve our students. Not only would this help us prepare Indigenous students for college and career opportunities, but it would also motivate our students to speak our languages ​​and engage with tribal culture and traditions. I urge our legislative and executive leaders in New Mexico to work with Assemblyman Derrick Lente to pass historic trust fund legislation this legislature. The state has received a flurry of revenue, particularly from power generation on state land. We should all be aware that these lands are ancestral tribal lands that once belonged to the native peoples of this state.