Last week’s column condemned the Democrats’ principled opposition to Rod Adair’s radically gerrymandered redistricting maps, declaring it to be a “fiction” based on “inaccurate narratives.”

The Observer claims it is illogical to object to packing Native Americans into one district while opposing the splitting of smaller communities such as Bernalillo, Corrales and Placitas.

The Observer’s argument is seriously misguided and inaccurate.

Perpetuating a shameful injustice that should have been abandoned with hoop skirts and quill pens, the Observer makes this argument without bothering to consult with Sandoval County’s Native Americans.

It ignores the comments of all Native American leaders who spoke at the Nov. 18 commission meeting and strongly objected to Adair’s maps.

It also disregards the objections of the Native American Democratic Caucus of New Mexico (NADCNM), which calls the gerrymandering “unconscionable.”

This lack of information or, perhaps, bias is beneath the Observer.

The Observer asks why it’s bad for small non-Native communities to be divided between districts but good for Native reservations to be split the same way.

Equating the pueblos and chapter houses of diverse Native Americans living throughout the county to a single town is fallacious.
Splitting an individual pueblo or chapter house would be the true equivalent of dividing a small town.

By the Observer’s logic, Bernalillo, Corrales and Placitas should be in the same district because they are all small towns.

An alternative plan was presented by Isaac Chavez at the Nov. 18 commission meeting.

After consulting with a number of Native American leaders, Chavez improved the plan with our input.

The improved plan — now being sponsored by Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald — has earned the support of representatives from the Sandoval County pueblos that Chavez had the opportunity to consult with to date.

Affirming Chavez’s approach, the improved plan retains its original structure of having a significant Native American presence in two commission districts.

We understand that Chavez would have conducted such consultation before presenting his alternative had Adair’s maps not been sprung on us right before the commission meeting.

Native Americans account for roughly 11 percent of Sandoval County’s population, and the Chavez Plan concentrates us in two districts at twice our overall percentage of the county as a whole. This allows us to be a powerful voting bloc.

Also, having two commissioners concerned with the needs of Sandoval’s many diverse pueblos and chapter houses gives individual Native communities a better chance of having our voices heard.

Finding it acceptable to pack Native Americans into a single district without consultation, over our objections and without tribal consent is extremely troubling and reflects a shocking disregard for our presence in Sandoval County, which includes three Navajo chapters and six pueblos.

It is disappointing that in the year 2021, our major local newspaper has invested so little effort in understanding our county’s culturally rich, diverse and economically critical Native American population and helping to ensure a fair and equitable voting environment for all.

Aleta Suazo (Acoma/Laguna Pueblo)
Rio Rancho