MON: Activists Topple Santa Fe Obelisk On Indigenous Peoples Day, + More

Oct 12, 2020

Activists In New Mexico, Arizona Mark Indigenous Peoples Day - By Cedar Attanasio and Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

Protesters have torn down a historical monument in Santa Fe as New Mexico, Arizona and other states marked Indigenous Peoples Day.

Protesters used a rope and chain Monday to topple the obelisk on the Santa Fe Plaza, spurring cheers from the crowd. Signs near the marker read "It matters who we elevate and celebrate."

A point of contention for years, the obelisk was dedicated in part to the "heroes" who died in battle with "savage Indians."

Mayor Alan Webber had tried earlier this year to diffuse conflict over several historical markers linked to Spanish colonialism and Anglo-American soldiers.

He had one statue of a Spanish conquistador taken down and boarded up an obelisk commemorating U.S. soldiers after city contractors tried and failed to tear down the massive stone structure.

Webber had promised to form a commission that would contemplate the future of the historical markers, but that hasn't happened.

In Arizona, protesters clashed with law enforcement officers after staging protests near the U.S.-Mexico border. Video showed vehicles stopped on the side of the road and some people being taken into custody.

Other events across the country Monday focused on the history and contributions of Native Americans, including virtual runs, comedy and music showcases, panel discussions on tribal sovereignty, and the effects of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that determined that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma is a part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

The federal government recognizes the second Monday in October as Columbus Day. In a proclamation Friday, President Donald Trump commemorated Christopher Columbus as the "great Italian who opened a new chapter in world history" and said racial activists have sought to undermine Columbus' legacy.

The 15th-century explorer is a polarizing figure. He's often lauded for "discovering" the Americas but reviled for launching centuries of genocide against Indigenous people.

Native American advocates for years have pressed states to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

In Arizona, Monday marked the first time that the state recognized Indigenous Peoples Day while still keeping Columbus Day a state holiday.

Arizona state Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, who is Navajo, pushed for the proclamation that Gov. Doug Ducey signed last month. She said she plans to introduce legislation next year that would replace Columbus Day with a celebration of Native Americans. She expects backlash.

The movement has seen statues of Columbus and other others defaced or torn down in recent months.

Over the weekend, protesters in Oregon overturned statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in what they dubbed "Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage," in response to the Columbus Day federal holiday.

New Mexico Homeless Shelter Reports More Coronavirus CasesAssociated Press

Albuquerque officials confirmed more COVID-19 infections at the city's homeless shelter as cases across New Mexico keep rising.

The city reported an additional 72 cases at the shelter Sunday, bringing the total to 93 confirmed infections since the pandemic began.

Overall, state health officials have reported a total of more than 33,360 cases, including 389 cases that were added to the tally Monday.

New Mexico health officials reported another four deaths Monday, bringing the statewide total to 915 since the pandemic began.

The shelter is not taking new residents. Anyone already there who's experiencing symptoms or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 is being isolated and tested, officials said.

Some hotels are being used to house those who test positive in an effort to curb spread among the homeless population.

The city said it has established protocols for identifying vulnerable people such as seniors and those with chronic medical conditions that put them at risk. They're being offered shelter in other locations.

New Mexico has had some of the most restrictive health orders in place since the pandemic began but has been reporting near record highs in recent days.

 

New Mexico Governor Urged To Take Stand Against Nuclear Plan - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Environmentalists and other watchdog groups are calling on New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to create a government agency that would be tasked with keeping the state from becoming a permanent dumping ground for spent nuclear fuel and other high-level waste.

Dozens of groups have sent a letter to the Democratic governor. They pointed to Nevada's success in mothballing the Yucca Mountain waste repository project and asked the governor to consider similar measures to protect New Mexico.

In comments recently submitted to federal regulators, state officials opposed a preliminary recommendation that a license be granted to Holtec International to build a multibillion-dollar storage facility in southeastern New Mexico.

The first phase of the project calls for storing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium, which would be packed into 500 canisters. Future expansion could make room for as many as 10,000 canisters of spent nuclear fuel.

Holtec has said the site in New Mexico — about 35 miles from Carlsbad — is remote and geologically stable. The company also has said the four-layer casks that would hold the spent fuel would be made of steel and lead and transported on a guarded train.

State officials in comments recently submitted to federal regulators opposed a preliminary recommendation by staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that a license be granted to Holtec to build the multibillion-dollar facility. They said technical analysis has been inadequate so far and accused regulators of failing to consider environmental justice concerns and meet requirements spelled out by federal environmental laws.

Schools Allege Overreach By New Mexico Education Secretary - By Cedar Attanasio AP/Report For America

A group of New Mexico school districts argue in a lawsuit that the Public Education Department is overstepping its authority during the pandemic.

From forcing children without the internet to learn remotely to commandeering toilet paper for child care centers, they say the education department's mandates exceed the powers laid out in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's emergency health order to deal with COVID-19.

A number of the school districts represented in the lawsuit are on or near the Navajo Nation, where stakes are high for in-person learning. The region was hit hard early in the pandemic. Now its students, around half of whom cannot connect to the internet, are struggling to keep up with school.

An injunction in the case could severely limit the education department's ability to implement what state officials describe as a science-based process of limiting risk in schools.

A ruling against the education department could require the governor to explicitly include each detail in its public health order, or submit to a lengthy rule-making process.

It's the latest lawsuit aimed at limiting the power of the executive branch to use health orders to direct decisions in public education. Another recent lawsuit filed in a New Mexico district court argues the state's orders violate federal protections for disabled students.

Remote Schooling Forces Child Welfare Agencies To Adapt - By Cedar Attanasio Ap/Report For America

Child welfare monitoring and enforcement have been challenged by the coronavirus pandemic as teachers — the backbone of the abuse and neglect reporting system — are separated from their students by remote learning.

In New Mexico, schools, state agencies, and law enforcement officials say they are adapting and the lack of in-person schooling hasn't hobbled their work. It has required more attention, though, as it's less clear who isn't being allowed to go to school, and who's just having trouble logging on.

Earlier this week, sheriff's deputies in New Mexico's most populous city launched "Operation Educational Encouragement" to carry out over 50 welfare checks — mostly on students reported by teachers as being chronically absent from online learning.

The effort is aimed at checking in on households, not punishing parents. True to the spirit of "encouragement," there were no arrests.

School districts in New Mexico have created their own checkup systems for students when concerns fall short of educational neglect but still require follow-up.

When students don't log in or regularly fail to do homework, they are referred to a triaging service created this year by the Public Education Department called ENGAGE.

Some 12,000 students have been referred to the group of contractors based in New Mexico and Arizona who chase down students so that overworked teachers don’t have to. The $1.6 million contract with the for-profit Graduation Alliance allows for more than twice as many students to be helped.

New Mexico Reports 269 New COVID-19 Cases And 4 More Deaths - Associated Press

New Mexico health officials on Sunday reported 269 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths. That increased the state's totals to 32,983 cases and 911 known deaths. 

On Saturday, state officials reported 486 additional COVID-19 cases — two short of the record daily number of 488 cases reported Friday — and five additional deaths. 

The counties with the most additional cases reported Sunday were Bernalillo with 100 and Doña Ana with 40. Bernalillo County includes Albuquerque, the state's most populous city. 

Most out-of-state travelers are required to self-quarantine upon arrival in New Mexico with exceptions for people arriving from six northeastern states, California and Washington.

Navajo Nation Reports 20 New Coronavirus Cases, No DeathsAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials report 20 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 but no new deaths. The latest numbers released Sunday night bring the total number of cases to 10,696 with the death toll remaining at 565.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has said he is concerned about 85 news COVID-19 cases that were found late last week on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Nez says the resurgence in new coronavirus cases was "very troubling" and could very well lead to widespread infections as seen in the spring.

A shelter-in-place order and other measures remain in effect on the Navajo Nation.

Navajo Nation Reports 43 New Coronavirus Cases, 1 More Death - Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials are reporting 43 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 with one additional death. 

The latest numbers released Saturday night bring the total number of cases to 10,675 with the death toll at 565. 

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says he's concerned about 85 news COVID-19 cases over the last two days on the vast reservation that covers parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. In a statement, Nez said the resurgence in new coronavirus cases is very troubling and could very well lead to widespread infections the tribe saw back in April and May. 

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation.

Trump Inks Law Addressing Missing, Murdered Native Americans - Associated Press

President Donald Trump has signed a bill named for a Fargo murder victim to address cases of missing and murdered Native Americans. 

Savanna's Act, which is named for Savanna Greywind, passed the House last month after passing the Senate earlier this year. 

The bill was introduced by former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, of North Dakota, last Congress and was reintroduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, in the current Congress. 

The law is meant to help police track, solve and prevent crimes against Native Americans. It directs the Departments of Justice and Interior to consult with American Indian tribes while developing national law enforcement guidelines.

The 22-year-old pregnant Greywind was murdered in 2017 and her unborn baby was cut from her body. Her remains were found in the Red River north of Fargo. Two people are in prison for her death. Her infant survived. 

Former Frat Member Sentenced For Shooting Student As Hazing - Associated Press

A former New Mexico State University fraternity member who shot another student during a hazing ritual last year was given an 18-month suspended sentence on Friday. 

Miguel Altamirano pleaded no contest to charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and negligent use of a deadly weapon while intoxicated. 

Altamirano shot Jonathan Sillas in the leg at a campground in November 2019 during hazing for the Kappa Sigma fraternity at the university. 

The university revoked Kappa Sigma's charter and Altamirano was expelled.

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