THURS: Nearly $50M in federal aid coming to NM for broadband, advocates call for removal of senator from committees, +More
Feds: $401M will add high-speed internet to rural US places, including New Mexico – Ken Ritter, Associated Press
The federal government is pledging $401 million in grants and loans to expand the reach and improve the speed of internet for rural residents, tribes and businesses in remote parts of 11 states from Alaska to Arkansas.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Wednesday, ahead of the Thursday announcement, that farmers, store owners, schoolchildren and people seeking telehealth medical checkups will benefit from the ReConnect and Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee programs.
“Connectivity is critical to economic success in rural America,” Vilsack said in a statement tallying the number of people who could be helped at about 31,000 in states also including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas.
The statement said the Department of Agriculture plans more spending on high-speed internet in coming weeks as part of a $65 billion Biden administration plan to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities in the U.S.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto joined Vilsack and Mitch Landrieu, White House infrastructure coordinator, to point to the effect the grants and loans are expected to have in the northern Nevada community of Lovelock, home to fewer than 2,000 people, and the Lovelock Indian Colony.
“There is a need for this connectivity on so many levels,” Cortez Masto said, “whether it brings telehealth, telemedicine, e-learning, workforce development. A connection is so important for so many Nevadans.”
Internet provider Uprise LLC will receive more than $27 million to connect almost 4,900 people, 130 businesses, 22 farms and seven public schools in Lovelock and surrounding Pershing County, officials said.
Masto, a Democrat seeking reelection in November, said federal funds will offer eligible Nevada residents a $30-per-month discount on their internet bill discount and up to $100 toward a computer.
Elsewhere, Midvale Telephone Co. will get $10.6 million to bring high-speed fiber-optic internet to people, businesses and farms in four central Idaho counties — Elmore, Blaine, Custer and Boise — and five southeast Arizona counties: Gila, Graham, Pinal, Cochise and Pima.
The Arkansas Telephone Co. will receive $12 million to connect almost 1,000 people, 10 businesses and 145 farms to high-speed internet in Searcy and Van Buren counties, with low-cost with voice and voice/data starter packages.
Alaska Power & Telephone, Unicom Inc. and Cordova Telephone Cooperative, combined, are slated to receive almost $55.4 million in to connect almost 3,300 people, 118 businesses and seven schools in remote areas by fiber-optic network.
In New Mexico, Continental Divide Electric Cooperative and ENMP Telephone Cooperative are due to receive a combined $18 million in grants to install affordable fiber networks, and Penasco Valley Telephone Cooperative will get a nearly $29 million loan to connect “socially vulnerable communities” in Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln and Otero counties.
Vilsack said the programs will particularly help residents in what he called “persistent poverty counties,” where he said most have access to broadband, but about one in three don’t have high-speed networks needed for telemedicine and distance learning.
He said the goal was “to do what is necessary to make sure every rural resident, regardless of ZIP code has access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.”
Highway double take: Albuquerque sign spelled without 'R’ – Associated Press
It made drivers on Route 66 and Interstate 40 in New Mexico do double takes.
A newly upgraded state Department of Transportation sign erected last week that pointed drivers toward Albuquerque misspelled the city's name, losing the “R.”
People called and emailed the department to point out the mistake on the sign visible to drivers on the parallel highways, said Kimberly Gallegos, a department spokesperson.
A corrected sign went up this week, she said.
“I do not recall this happening before,” Gallegos said. “But I honestly think this was just a simple mistake.”
Albuquerque used to have another “R” in its name. According to the city’s website, colonists were granted permission in 1706 by King Philip of Spain to establish a new community on the banks of the Rio Grande.
The colony’s governor, Francisco Cuervo y Valdés, wrote a letter to Spain's Duke of Alburquerque to report that it had been named La Villa de Alburquerque in his honor.
The first “R” was dropped later, leaving Albuquerque with its current spelling, the city website said.
Group calls for ouster of senator from committees — ABQ Journal, KUNM News
More than 20 advocacy groups are calling for state legislative leaders to bar a senator under investigation of sexual harassment from interim committee meetings.
According to a report from the Albuquerque Journal, the group wrote an open letter in which they say Democratic state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is in a position to influence bills brought to him by lobbyists who have accused him of inappropriate behavior.
Earlier this year, lobbyists Marianna Anaya filed a complaint against Ivey-Soto, after which a coalition of advocacy groups accused him of a pattern of abusive and inappropriate behavior against women.
Ivey-Soto said yesterday he has not mistreated anyone during interim committee meetings, and that he shouldn’t be punished for something until he’s proven guilty.
2 dead, 10 injured in SUV rollover near US-Mexico border — Associated Press
Two people died and 10 were injured Wednesday when the SUV they were in rolled over in southeastern New Mexico about eight miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said.
A thirteenth person also was in the Chevrolet Tahoe but it was unclear whether that person was injured, said Sunland Park Fire Chief Daniel Medrano. His agency responded to the crash, which occurred around 4:45 a.m. about 13 miles (21 kilometers) northwest of El Paso, Texas.
New Mexico State Police confirmed the two fatalities but did not respond to repeated requests for comment on whether law enforcement officers were pursuing the SUV when the rollover happened. Medrano said two of the people who were hurt suffered critical injuries and that all of the injured were taken to hospitals.
Federal officials in a statement said U.S. Border Patrol agents provided assistance at the crash scene, but declined to specify what type of help or whether agents were involved in a pursuit.
The Mexican Consulate in El Paso said in a statement that nine of the injured people were Mexican and that it is providing assistance to them.
While authorities did not identify the people in the SUV as immigrants, the stretch of border in southeastern New Mexico where the crash happened is among the spots where migrants regularly are smuggled across from Mexico in SUVs.
Nearly a month ago in the nearby New Mexico community of Santa Teresa, 15 immigrants were found crammed inside an SUV after a caller told the Border Patrol that the vehicle was picking up people on a state highway.
Last year, the driver of an SUV packed with smuggled migrants was struck by tractor-trailer shortly after driving through a hole in the border fence about 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of San Diego. The crash killed 13 of 25 people crammed into the SUV that was built to hold a maximum of eight. All the dead were from Mexico and Guatemala.
Wounded Knee artifacts highlight slow pace of repatriations – Philip Marcelo, Associated Press
One by one, items purportedly taken from Native Americans massacred at Wounded Knee Creek emerged from the dark, cluttered display cases where they’ve sat for more than a century in a museum in rural Massachusetts.
Moccasins, necklaces, clothing, ceremonial pipes, tools and other objects were carefully laid out on white backgrounds as a photographer dutifully snapped pictures under bright studio lights.
It was a key step in returning scores of items displayed at the Founders Museum in Barre to tribes in South Dakota that have sought them since the 1990s.
“This is real personal,” said Leola One Feather, of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, as she observed the process as part of a two-person tribal delegation last week. “It may be sad for them to lose these items, but it’s even sadder for us because we’ve been looking for them for so long.”
Recent efforts to repatriate human remains and other culturally significant items such as those at the Founders Museum represent significant and solemn moments for tribes. But they also underscore the slow pace and the monumental task at hand.
Some 870,000 Native American artifacts — including nearly 110,000 human remains — that should be returned to tribes under federal law are still in the possession of colleges, museums and other institutions across the country, according to an Associated Press review of data maintained by the National Park Service.
The University of California, Berkeley tops the list, followed closely by the Ohio History Connection, the state’s historical society. State museums and universities in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Alabama, Illinois and Kansas as well as Harvard University round out the other top institutions.
And that’s not even counting items held by private institutions such as the Founders Museum, which maintains it does not receive federal funds and therefore doesn’t fall under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, the 1990 law governing the return of tribal objects by institutions receiving federal money.
“They’ve had more than three decades,” says Shannon O’Loughlin, chief executive of the Association on American Indian Affairs, a national group that assists tribes with repatriations. “The time for talk is over. Enough reports and studying. It’s time to repatriate.”
Museum officials say they’ve stepped up efforts with added funding and staff, but continue to struggle with identifying artifacts collected during archaeology's early years. They also say federal regulations governing repatriations remain time-consuming and cumbersome.
Dan Mogulof, an assistant vice chancellor at UC Berkeley, says the university is committed to repatriating the entire 123,000 artifacts in question "in the coming years at a pace that works for tribes.”
In January, the university repatriated the remains of at least 20 victims of the Indian Island Massacre of 1860 to the Wiyot Tribe in Humboldt County, California. But its Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology still holds more than 9,000 sets of ancestral remains, mainly from Bay-area tribes.
“We acknowledge the great harm and pain we have caused Native American people,” Mogulof said. “Our work will not be complete until all of the ancestors are home.”
At the Ohio History Connection, officials are working to create an inter-tribal burial ground to help bury ancestral remains for tribes forced to move from Ohio as the nation expanded, says Alex Wesaw, the organization’s director of American Indian relations.
The institution took similar steps in 2016 when it established a cemetery in northeast Ohio for the Delaware tribes of Oklahoma to re-bury nearly 90 ancestors who had been stored for centuries in museums in Pennsylvania.
Complicating matters, some of its more than 7,000 ancestral remains and 110,000 objects are thousands of years old, making it difficult to determine which modern-day tribe or tribes they should be returned to, Wesaw said.
At the Founders Museum, some 70 miles (112 kilometers) west of Boston, among the challenges has been determining what’s truly from the Wounded Knee Massacre, says Ann Meilus, the museum's board president.
Some tribe members maintain as many as 200 items are from massacre victims, but Meilus said museum officials believe its less than a dozen, based on discussions with a tribe member more than a decade ago.
The collection was donated by Barre native Frank Root, a 19th century traveling showman who claimed he’d acquired the objects from a man tasked with digging mass graves following the massacre.
Among the macabre collection was a lock of hair reportedly cut from the scalp of Chief Spotted Elk, which the museum returned to one of the Lakota Sioux leader’s descendants in 1999. It also includes a “ghost shirt,” a sacred garment that some tribe members tragically believed could make them bulletproof.
“He sort of exaggerated things,” Meilus said of Root. “In reality, we’re not sure if any of the items were from Wounded Knee.”
More than 200 men, women, children and elderly people were killed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1890 in one of the country’s worst massacres of Native Americans. The killings marked a seminal moment in the frontier battles the U.S. Army waged against tribes.
The U.S. Department of Interior recently proposed changes to the federal repatriation process that lay out more precise deadlines, clearer definitions and heftier penalties for noncompliance.
Tribe leaders say those steps are long overdue, but don’t address other fundamental problems, such as inadequate federal funding for tribes to do repatriation work.
Many tribes also still object to requirements that they explain the cultural significance of an item sought for repatriation, including how they’re used in tribal ceremonies, says Brian Vallo, a former governor of the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico who was involved in the 2020 repatriation of 20 ancestors from the National Museum of Finland and their re-burial at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.
“That knowledge is only for us,” he said. “It’s not ever shared."
Stacy Laravie, the historic preservation officer for the Ponca Tribe in Nebraska, is optimistic museum leaders are sincere in seeking to rectify the past, in the wake of the national reckoning on racism that’s reverberated through the country in recent years.
Last month, she traveled with a tribal delegation to Harvard to receive the tomahawk of her ancestor, the Native American civil rights leader Chief Standing Bear. She’s also working with the university’s Peabody Museum to potentially repatriate other items significant to her tribe.
“We’re playing catch up from decades of things getting thrown under the rug,” Laravie said. “But I do believe their hearts are in the right place.”
Back at the Founders Museum, Jeffrey Not Help Him, an Oglala Sioux member whose family survived the Wounded Knee Massacre, hopes the items could return home this fall, as the museum has suggested.
“We look forward to putting them in a good place,” Not Help Him said. “A place of honor.”