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Association president speaks out about the tragedy at the Gallup Inter-tribal Ceremonial parade

New Mexico-Car Hits Parade
William C. Weaver IV/AP
Gallup Independent
Police section off the site where an SUV came to an abrupt stop after a driver careened through the parade route of the Intertribal Ceremonial Centennial Celebration. in Gallup, New Mexico, Thursday, Aug. 4. 2022. Police arrested several people who were in a large SUV that drove through a Native American celebration in New Mexico, causing multiple injuries along a parade route crowded with families. (William C. Weaver IV/Gallup Independent via AP)

The Gallup Inter-tribal Ceremonial was shaken by a tragedy Thursday night when an SUV charged through the main parade route and injured two police officers. Thirteen others were also injured. The driver and occupants were arrested but that hasn’t put the public at ease. KUNM spoke with Kyle Tom, Navajo member and president of the Gallup Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial Association, earlier this week about the importance of this 100th anniversary event. He spoke with KUNM Friday afternoon about how Ceremonial organizers plan on moving forward and what steps could make the event safer. Tom was out of town working at the Sandoval County Fair Thursday and had to follow events through social media and phone calls.

KYLE TOM: My wife and I were on the phone last night and she was reading a Facebook post regarding Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. That post really hit me, that post got me teary-eyed and it’s just, my goodness — that really kind of painted the scene, and made it real and made you feel the emotion, the fear, the terror from people, and the anger. I just got off the phone with the president a few moments ago and I told him just how much I admire him and how courageous I think he is. And he said, you know, any husband and father, understandably, would have been upset in that moment when an assailant tries to potentially harm your children and your spouse. It just kind of puts you in a moment that, one: you're lucky you didn't get to experience in person, but two: you just feel nothing but heartbreak for these people that were there.

KUNM:  How does this impact the rest of the Ceremonial? 

TOM: I can tell you now, our art check-in is in full swing, we're getting entries in at Red Rock Park for the $100,000 art show. All agencies that are involved thus far have reached out and have been successful in getting extra coverage for higher police presence and just making sure every little possible thing we can do to make it the safest event possible is being done.

KUNM: It’s no surprise that some attendees might be fearful of going. How might the Ceremonial address the fears going forward?

TOM: It's really hard to say, 'This is what we're doing based on what we know, based on what actually happened.' And then for the people to trust us is the harder part because they've heard inaccurate things before they heard what really happened. So, in their mind, they've already got their mind made up. But I think with the addition of the State Police officers that the governor is sending, and just reexamining every single safety plan in place, I think we'll be okay. I have full confidence in our law enforcement, especially with how quickly they got the assailant stopped last night.

KUNM: How important is it to carry on this event?

It's so important to continue on, because it just shows how we can be strong and how we can accomplish things together. I'm a hippie at heart, okay. It seems like we're so much more easily divided than we are united. And unfortunately, it takes things like this — in a small town like Gallup — to truly bring people together. The hashtag going around, #Gallupstrong, I've seen all over social media. And it's really kind of nice, because it's all people of different tribes, different ethnicities, different social standings, different education levels. There's so many different people. But what's uniting us right now is a tragedy. As awful as that is, it's nice to see people being united again, to being people again. I would much rather see people come together and be happy together. So, the fact that we can go on, and we can show the world that we've had a rough few years — from COVID, to the downed economy, to now this. Gallup is going to show the world that we can come together, we can find healing in our tradition, and we can find peace in this event, and we can find comfort in each other, and we can move forward together as a community, and really celebrate what this event means to every one of us. Because if you remember my interview with you the other day, I said everybody has a little piece of ceremonial in their heart, and now we're really seeing that.

Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s currently a part of the Local News Fund Fellowship where she will be working with KUNM-FM and NMPBS during her 9-month fellowship where she will gain hands-on newsroom experience. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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