New Mexico’s Couy Griffin Slaps at the Legitimacy of Native Americans Voting and their Struggles and History

“I think the Recall for Couy Committee should look at the legal side of it because those signatures they get on the Mescalero Reservation, I don’t see how they could be used in a recall if I’m already been banished,” Griffin told a local radio station during an interview on July 13 that he questions the legality of the signatures gathered on the Mescalero Reservation since he was banned last fall.

Griffin apparently has forgotten or is unaware of the plight to vote for Native Americans or that there is even precedent for elected officials to be banished from stepping foot onto a reservation, but the Native American Voters still have the right to vote for or against that individual, even if the individual is banished from tribal lands represented.

Native Americans see themselves as patriots. They’re the demographic with the nation’s highest participation in military service. Yet profound differences separate some of their values from those of mainstream America. Many Indigenous people do not support the dominant society’s fiercely maintained system of racial and financial privilege of which Griffins comments allude to. Platforms with health- and community-focused planks are what interest most Native American voters per polling and Mr. Griffins absences from the district, focus on Cowboys for Trump and infatuation with the Trumpian theology don’t bold well for most Native American voters within the district.

The banishment of Couy Griffin from the Mezcalero Apache Reservation was an act, by the tribe, to get his attention. The banishment was to let him know of their displeasure in his actions as a representative in local government. Though driven by his rhetoric, the tribe’s stance of banishment is statement of his ineffectiveness as a leader of the community. The tribe clearly understands the recall is based upon his actions and potential ethics violations and not his rhetoric and as such allowed the signature drive for recall to proceed on their tribal lands.

Leaders build bridges between diverse groups and advocate for their needs. An act of banishment is a statement that he has been ineffective in representing their voice within county government if even at all.

The banishment of a political leader by a Native American tribe is not to be taken lightly and there is precedent for such actions. Couy is NOT the first politician to face a banishment and not the first to question voting rights of Native American citizens.

A most recent example of a tribal banishment is by the Oglala Sioux tribe in South Dakota, Via banishment they told the state’s governor that she was no longer welcome to access the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the largest in the country, because she signed bills that allegedly target Keystone XL pipeline protesters. The tribe’s president, Julian Bear Runner, informed Gov. Kristi Noem of the council’s unanimous decision in an open letter.

Tribal banishment is a permanent ban from the reservation, and violations are punishable by law with fines or even jail time on their lands. Tribes have sovereign rights over their lands per Federal treaties however they also participate in county and state elections. Federal law allows for what one might deem as dual citizenship the right to participate in tribal elections as per the tribes constitution and the right to participate in local, state and federal elections via rights granted to all citizens within the US constitution.

Voting Rights of New Mexico’s Native American Population:

Miguel Trujillo Sr. had been a Marine sergeant in World War II and was in the middle of getting his master’s degree from the University of New Mexico. But there was one thing he still could not do. Trujillo could not vote. In 1948, the state’s constitution barred American Indians living on reservations from participating in elections. So, that summer, the Isleta Pueblo educator waged a legal battle that culminated in a court ruling 74 years ago that won Native Americans the right to vote in New Mexico.

Even though the federal government had granted citizenship to Native Americans back in 1924, the New Mexico Constitution still barred them from voting. The state’s constitution expressly prohibited from voting “idiots, insane persons, persons convicted of felonious or infamous crime unless restored to political rights, and Indians not taxed.”

That last part referred to Indians living on reservations because they did not pay property taxes on their land. It is unclear whether Native Americans could have registered to vote if they lived outside reservations.

But the provision disenfranchised many and prompted condemnation from the President’s Committee on Civil Rights in its 1947 report. The provision did not make any sense, the committee said. That line in the constitution was written before American Indians were granted citizenship, but they were paying taxes to the state and federal government like other citizens.

Protests against this ban, the report noted, had only gained force as American Indian veterans returned to civilian life after World War II.

It was amid all of this that Trujillo went to the Valencia County Clerk’s Office in June 1948. Family have said Trujillo had grown up with the county clerk, Eloy Garley, but knew he would not be allowed to vote in any event. Sure enough, he was turned away. In turn, Trujillo went to court with the help of Felix Cohen, a former federal official who had become a prominent civil rights lawyer and was working with tribes in New Mexico.

They filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court focusing on that one strange qualifier in the state constitution. For one thing, Trujillo’s lawsuit argued, he paid plenty of taxes. No, he did not pay taxes on his land. But he paid income taxes and sales taxes. There are other voters who don’t pay property taxes, too, such as renters. But no other group has been barred from voting on the basis that they do not pay property taxes.

On Aug. 3, 1948, a panel of three judges in Santa Fe sided with Trujillo granting Native American voting in New Mexico.

“We are unable to escape the conclusion that under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments; this constitutes discrimination on the ground of race,” the court said in its ruling. The cruel irony that Trujillo had just served in the military but was denied the right to vote was not lost on the court, either. Native Americans, the court said, “have responded to the need of the country in time of war in a patriotic wholehearted way, both in furnishing manpower in the military forces and in the purchase of war bonds and patriotic contributions of that character.” “Why should they be deprived their rights to not now because they are favored by the federal government in exempting lands from taxation?” the court asked.

With that, American Indians had the right to vote and petition in New Mexico in any election for any candidate like other citizens.

And vote they do. In the most recent election voters elected a record-breaking six Native American congressional candidates to serve in the US House of Representatives. Native candidates also won dozens of races in state and local elections across the country.

In New Mexico at the state level 9 candidates ran…

  1. WON: Anthony Allison, Navajo Nation, State House 4, Democrat
  2. UNOPPOSED: Doreen Wonda Johnson, Navajo Nation, State House 5, Democrat
  3. WON: Derrick Lente, Sandia & Isleta Pueblo, State House 65, Democrat
  4. UNOPPOSED: Georgene Louis, Acoma Pueblo, State House 26, Democrat
  5. WON: Patricia Roybal Caballero, Piro Manso Tiwa, State House 13, Democrat
  6. WON: Shannon Pinto, Navajo Nation, State Senate 3, Democrat
  7. WON: Benny Shendo Jr., Jemez Pueblo, State Senate 22, Democrat
  8. WON: Brenda McKenna, Nambe Pueblo, State Senate 9, Democrat
  9. LOST: Gertrude Lee, Navajo Nation, New Mexico Court of Appeals, Position 2, Republican

There are almost 3600 members of the Mescalero Apache tribe of which a large percentage live on the reservation and are located within Couy Griffins District. By law each have the right to sign the petition if a registered voter in the county the tribe’s people like ANYONE registered to vote in Otero County District 2 can sign the recall petition, including those registered voters on the Mescalero Reservation.

If Griffin is removed from office, the New Mexico Constitution states that Lujan Grisham may appoint a person from any political party to the seat. The appointee must be from Otero County District 2, Governor’s Office Spokeswoman Nora Sackett said.

The New Mexico Constitution is not as specific as the statement from the Governor’s spokesperson however there is precedent in appointments, and it would be politically prudent for the Governor to appoint within the district thus the statement from her spokesperson.

The Committee to Recall Couy Griffin is setting precedent in New Mexico history as there is not a record of a recall effort that has garnered this much attention nor seen the successes to date of this effort. To learn more about the recall effort visit:

https://www.facebook.com/RecallCouy/

Signatures at the Reservation are being gathered…

Friday, July 16:

Mescalero, Apache Reservation at the Chiricahua Plaza parking lot from 10 am – 4 pm

Saturday, July 17

Mescalero: Chiricahua Plaza parking lot from 10 am – 4 pm

Note: Story Revised on 7/16/21 at 6:09 pm per request the author has remove the call letters and named interviewer referenced in the story per a call request. While the record of the call is in the public airwaves we respect the request and have done so accordingly. 

To hear audio of the interview with Couy Griffin of New Mexico follow the link https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FSgtChez%2Fposts%2F10219254270935110&show_text=true&width=500

A Gas Mask and an Atomic Vault protected Democracy 1-6-2020, But will Democracy Prevail?

The events in the capital raised an amazing memory from my teen years.

When in student congress, several years ago, we toured the capital, held a session of student congress, and I sat at then Congressman (Jim) James Ralph Sasser’s desk, since I represented Tennessee as a student legislative representative.

I dropped my pen and found a bag attached to my seat. Congressman Sasser’s aid laughed and said don’t touch that, “it’s a relic of the Cold War period, masks are provided to every member of the house and senate while on the floor and in their offices as a safety precaution in the event of terrorist attack or a gas attack by the Russians.”

Photo of the old Cold War era Congressional Gas Mask found on authorchrisedwards.com written blog

Imagine my shock, 30 plus years later, when I watched the news and watched members of congress sustain a domestic terrorist attack, and hear the order for members of congress to huddle to the floor, and to place on their masks.

Here are some facts on the masks on the capital floor protecting our legislative leaders of the 21st Century. Those relics or masks are a bit different than the ones I reviewed but the need apparently remains the same – the safety of our legislative representatives from attack foreign and sadly domestic.

The Scape CBRN 30 escape respirator.Photo on the website AuthorChrisEdwards.com of present masks is provided by Popular Science of The Scape CBRN 30 escape respirator used by congress now.

Sadly that horrific day what we as Americans say as an example was David Trone, a Democratic congressman from Maryland, tweeting on January 6, saying, “I am safe. We have been evacuated.” The tweet included three images of the eye-catching pieces of protective equipment. While they’ve been referred to as gas masks, they’re technically known as escape hoods.

Sometimes also called escape respirators, these hoods serve a key purpose: to allow an untrained civilian to quickly and safely get away from an area that may have a chemical, biological, or even radiological or nuclear threat present.

These specific hoods were made by ILC Dover, according to Doug Durney, the product line manager for that company’s PPE gear.

Here’s what they do, and how they work.

When you open it from its case, it automatically comes on. A fan system pulls air through filters—both a HEPA filter as well as a carbon one—and then fills the hood with clean air. Air also exits through a valve located elsewhere on the hood.

The hood forms a seal around the wearer’s neck, but the system also creates a positive pressure gradient between the inside of the hood and the outside air—meaning that air wants to flow outward from the protective gear, and not into it. That helps prevent contaminants from getting in even if someone’s long hair, for example, gets caught in the area where it seals against the neck.

Unlike a true spacesuit, it’s not designed to be tightly sealed off from the environment.

This item is called the Scape CBRN 30, and it comes in two varieties: one that also protects against carbon monoxide (the Scape CO/CBRN) and one that doesn’t. The acronym CBRN is a common term referring to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, and “30” in this case references the time period it’s intended to protect the wearer for: 30 minutes.

That relatively short time frame highlights the gear’s purpose—it’s intended to be thrown on quickly as someone leaves a dangerous area. That differentiates it from the type of gear that professional first responders might don when purposely entering a hot zone. More advanced protective suits include their own air supply; these do not.

The violent, deadly incursion into the Capitol last week produced a shocking stream of images, and among them was the bizarre sight of some people wearing spacesuit-like transparent pieces of gear over their heads.© Provided by Popular Science The Scape CBRN 30 escape respirator.

For example, David Trone, a Democratic congressman from Maryland, tweeted on January 6, saying, “I am safe. We have been evacuated.” The tweet included three images of the eye-catching pieces of protective equipment. While they’ve been referred to as gas masks, they’re technically known as escape hoods.© courtesy of ILC Dover The Scape CBRN 30 escape respirator.

Sometimes also called escape respirators, these hoods serve a key purpose: to allow an untrained civilian to quickly and safely get away from an area that may have a chemical, biological, or even radiological or nuclear threat present.

These specific hoods were made by ILC Dover, according to Doug Durney, the product line manager for that company’s PPE gear.

“When you open it from its case, it automatically comes on,” Durney explains. A fan system pulls air through filters—both a HEPA filter as well as a carbon one—and then fills the hood with clean air. Air also exits through a valve located elsewhere on the hood. The red LED you may have seen in photos shows that it’s on.

The hood forms a seal around the wearer’s neck, but the system also creates a positive pressure gradient between the inside of the hood and the outside air—meaning that air wants to flow outward from the protective gear, and not into it. That helps prevent contaminants from getting in even if someone’s long hair, for example, gets caught in the area where it seals against the neck. Unlike a true spacesuit, it’s not designed to be tightly sealed off from the environment.

This item is called the Scape CBRN 30, and it comes in two varieties: one that also protects against carbon monoxide (the Scape CO/CBRN) and one that doesn’t. The acronym CBRN is a common term referring to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, and “30” in this case references the time period it’s intended to protect the wearer for: 30 minutes.

That relatively short time frame highlights the gear’s purpose—it’s intended to be thrown on quickly as someone leaves a dangerous area. That differentiates it from the type of gear that professional first responders might don when purposely entering a hot zone. More advanced protective suits include their own air supply; these do not.

“It’s designed for a relatively untrained user, where you pop it on your head, and go,” Durney says. “There’s no on-off button.”

“You can be seen, and you can see,” he adds, referring to the fact that it’s a transparent hood-like system, as opposed to a tight-fitting mask that could obscure part of your face. (Individually, these ILC Dover escape hoods cost about $580, which is the price listed on Grainger.com.)

Escape hoods like this from the company are designed to protect against nasty agents like mustard or sarin gas, ammonia, chlorine, or anthrax. They’re also effective at keeping radioactive particulates out of your lungs—dust that may be radioactive, for example—but they wouldn’t guard against the effects of ionizing radiation itself.

In this case, the escape hoods were reportedly used because of tear gas in the area, according to The New York Times and other reports.

The caching of escape hoods verses the cold war version of gas masks is a decidedly 21st-century phenomenon in the Capitol. It was a post-9/11 type of purchase according to sources but initiated due to an ever growing concern of domestic terrorism within the United States.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2002 that some 20,000 hoods were sent to the Capitol in June of that year, and that they were made by a company called Survivair at that time. The context, beyond the air-based terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., was the anthrax attacks that involved two U.S. Senators’ office and the rising calls for protection from the threat of domestic terrorism. Five people died as a result of that biological agent in 2002. The Capital police are receiving and increasing number of threats of domestic terrorism and investigate them rigorously. The numbers of those threats have increased exponentially the last 4 years as our nation has become more divided and less oriented toward compromise and collaboration.

We witnessed a true assault on our democracy, not by a Cold War adversary but initiated by the occupant of the White House, 70 plus congress persons and about 7 Senators as co-conspirators.

Shame has been brought on the capital dome by those individuals. A Cold War relic that was put to use on this day, January 6, 2020 by a group domestic terrorists and thugs. This day will be marked in the annuls of history.

A sad day, as a copy of the constitution is protected, in the national archives, sealed in a vault, that would withstand an atomic blast, today it was attacked and its guidance and wisdom was chipped away at, by the occupant of the White House, his co-conspirators in congress and the senate and the mob whose violence he instilled.

On the website of authorChrisEdwards.com is also a photo of US Constitution stored at the National Archives in a vault that can withstand an atomic blast. Sadly the constitution and what it represents was chipped away at, by the violence and antics, of the occupant of the White House on January 6th, President Trump and his co-conspirators that breached the Capital and attempted a Coup against the Democratic Process of Counting the Certified votes of state via the Electoral College of Jan, 6, 2020.

Patriots? No, terrorist and insurrectionist, cowards; who use the name patriot and the constitution in vain. You brought and continue to bring shame on our forefathers and everything they represent. Luckily the wisdom of the leadership of the house and the senate, the the reverence to the constitution by the Vice President allowed the constitutional processes of democracy to prevail.

As of March, prosecutions have begun, law enforcement has now weaved together a thread of the conspiracy and identified hundreds of perpetrators that played a part of the assault on our democracy.

On this day of January 6th, 2020 democracy prevailed. The bigger question for each of us, is will it withstand the constant assault on the rights of the silent majority, the economically challenged, people of color, women, immigrants, the middle and lower classes, as we move forward from this event? Will wealth and power continue to corrupt the systems of government and will further assaults on our leaders become the norm as more Americans distrust the institutions that are the foundation of our daily existence? Time will tell, and you and I each are responsible and we each own the outcome.

Author Chris Edwards January 7, 2020 Updated March 1, 2020.