Sitting at his booth at the Bosque Farms Growers Market, George Torres greeted customers all morning one Saturday last year. Many he knew by name and asked about their harvest, the weather, the water. All around him, vendors sold vegetables, milk, eggs, cookies, cut flowers, and seedlings. One farmer dropped off a bundle of radishes, saying, “That’s all I have yet.”
As the July day temperature climbed, another asked Torres to “Turn off the furnace.” He asked how things were going, and she made a dismissive “Pfffttt.” None of the beets or spinach germinated. It was too hot.
Torres’ wife, Loretta, was the gardener, not George.
This week the U.S. Interior Department released a 100-page report on the lasting consequences of the federal Indian boarding school system. You might recall last June Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, announced the federal agency would investigate the extent of the loss of human life and legacy of the federal Indian boarding school system, a chapter of U.S. history many Americans know little to nothing about.
This week’s report is the first of possibly many, and it deserves to be read by as many Americans as possible.
Here are some of the investigation’s top-level findings:
Beginning in the late 1800s, the federal government took Indian children from their families in an effort to strip them of their cultures and language.Between 1819 and 1969, the U.S. operated or supported 408 boarding schools across 37 states (or then-territories), including 21 schools in Alaska and 7 schools in Hawaii. Of those 37 states, New Mexico had the third-greatest concentration of facilities, with 43, trailing only Oklahoma and Arizona. The schools “deployed systematic militarized and identity-alteration methodologies to attempt to assimilate American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children through education, including but not limited to the following: (1) renaming Indian children from Indian to English names; (2) cutting hair of Indian children; (3) discouraging or preventing the use of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages, religions, and cultural practices; and (4) organizing Indian and Native Hawaiian children into units to perform military drills.The Federal Indian boarding school system focused on manual labor and vocational skills that left American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian graduates with employment options often irrelevant to the industrial U.S. economy, further disrupting Tribal economies.
Boarding schools in New Mexico got an early start.Two years after the first boarding school, the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, opened in 1879, the Presbyterian Church opened the Albuquerque Indian School (AIS) for Navajo, Pueblo and Apache students. Later, the school transferred to federal control.The Albuquerque Indian School merits several mentions in this week’s report, including five photos as I counted them of young Indigenous girls and boys in class, and of the building itself.
Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Albuquerque Indian School, 1947-ca. 1964 (most recent
Last weekend, Derek Matthews, the founder of the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, asked GOP state lawmaker and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rebecca Dow to pull a campaign commercial that talked about “critical race theory. Standing on a stage with Dow in front of thousands of Native people who had flocked to the Albuquerque event from all over North America and beyond after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Matthews’s request hushed the crowd except for a smattering of clapping and whistling. Dow ignored Matthews and welcomed the Gathering of Nations attendees without responding to his request. It was an awkward moment. I want to join Matthews in asking Dow to pull the commercial.
New Mexico In Depth has won six awards, including two first place prizes, competing against medium-sized newsrooms across New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. The honors, announced this weekend in Denver, were awarded in the annual Top of the Rockies contest administered by the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Elizabeth Miller took 1st place in the agriculture and environment news for a package of stories that highlighted water finally making its way to parts of the Navajo Nation, where 30% to 40% of Navajo people still are without running water because of a century of federal indifference. But the century-late federal aid doesn’t include money to connect homes and small communities to a massive pipeline project. She also trained her eye on the city of Gallup and its near-crisis in water availability just as a new federal project that promises help could be held up for four additional years due to federal decision making.
Thursday night, at the end of an interactive program on gerrymandering put on by the Keshet Arts and Justice Youth Leadership Council, the facilitator asked everyone in the audience (OK, only about a dozen of us) to summarize the experience in one word. “Frustrating,” said one older woman. “Exciting,” said one young woman. “Impressed,” I said. I was impressed by the way Council Co-chairs Juliana Gorena and Emani Brooks, both 19, used clips from the documentary Slay the Dragon to explain the history and impact of gerrymandering better than almost anyone I’ve seen try.
Otero County is the latest local front in a war that is dividing Republicans over the 2020 election. The County Commission in southeastern New Mexico has paid for a $50,000 study they call an audit of the county’s election results, provoking headlines after voters complained that volunteers who are going door-to-door quizzing them are asking them who they cast ballots for — a charge one of the organizers has denied. While the county commission has authorized paying for the audit, it’s not an official audit like the ones completed after each election by the Otero County Clerk, the Office of the Secretary of State or an independent firm contracted by the state agency. Leading the effort is a group called New Mexico Audit Force and an ally is Otero County’s most famous commissioner — Republican Couy Griffin, the Cowboys for Trump leader awaiting trial on federal criminal charges of entering and disorderly conduct in a restricted building related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
New Mexico lawmakers made consequential changes for the state’s most vulnerable people during the short 30-day legislative session this year, made possible by a tidal wave of cash. Top of the list of consequential bills is the big boost in teacher pay. Lawmakers bumped salary minimums for Level 1, 2, and 3 teachers to $50,000, $60,000, and $70,000, respectively, a major goal of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and legislators who publicly declared their intention to make New Mexico’s teachers the best paid in the region. Compared to states like Texas, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma and Colorado, they’re about middling right now.
The hope is the increases will sweeten the allure of teaching. Vacancies among the state’s teaching ranks are high and growing.
What do you consider the job of the future? What is your dream job? Are you satisfied with your quality of life?
We’re working on a project on economic issues in tribal communities and we want to know more from you. News organizations joining New Mexico In Depth in this collaboration are Indian Country Today, Buffalo’s Fire, Investigate West, KOSU, Mvskoke Media, Osage News, Rawhide Press, Underscore and Wisconsin Watch. Please use this form to provide us with details about what is happening in your community.
ProPublica has selected New Mexico In Depth as part of its Local Reporting Network for the second time in as many years, a huge distinction.
You might remember New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica teamed up in 2020 and 2021 to work with reporter Bryant Furlow as COVID marched across the globe.The year-and-a-half partnership proved extremely impactul, with Bryant’s stories:• Forcing one of New Mexico’s largest hospitals to stop automatically testing and segregating Native American pregnant women after we exposed the practice, which was based on whether women lived in Native communities. We discovered the hospital’s practice through rigorous and lengthy relationship building with clinicians within the hospital.
• Documenting that New Mexico provides almost no oversight of the care provided by neonatal intensive care units even though the tiniest, most premature babies died at up to twice the rate at one of the state’s largest hospitals compared to the rate at another major maternity and newborn facility only a few miles away in Albuquerque; and despite 31 states having laws or rules requiring oversight of neonatal intensive care hospitals.• Showing how the nursing home industry fought to water down safety requirements in the years before COVID stormed across the globe, leaving them and the clients facilities cared for vulnerable to the devastating virus.
Bryant is known for reporting that leads to change.
His reporting has exposed off-label sedation of jail inmates with prescription drug cocktails, embezzlements, and lax oversight by the state’s insurance regulators — reporting that prompted new state legislation on insurance rate-setting transparency.
With New Mexico In Depth over the years, he was the first reporter to challenge the state’s decision to cut off Medicaid funding to behavioral health providers through rigorous, thorough reporting.
He’s authored hundreds of health care and medical research news stories for medical journals, including The Lancet journals’ news desks, where his recent reporting has spotlighted neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, vaping injuries, the seizure by the US Border Patrol of children’s medications and volunteer health care efforts at migrant shelters along the U.S./Mexico border. Since 2008, New York-based ProPublica has become known for rigorous and thoughtful journalism, winning six Pulitzers, five Peabody Awards, nine George Polk Awards, two DuPont Columbia Awards and four Emmy Awards.
Our partnership with ProPublica, which begins in January, is part of New Mexico In Depth’s core mission: to collaborate with national and local news organizations to bring resources, new skills, and more journalism to New Mexico communities, where investigative reporting is in short supply.
We look forward to continuing to strengthen our capacity for investigative reporting in years to come.
I’ve been watching school board races across the country — in places like Southlake, Texas and Guilford, Conn. — because of the debate over “critical race theory” and growing opposition to diversity and equity programs.
These are mostly white, affluent communities near big cities. Imagine my surprise this week to discover the debate is happening in my town, too. Patrick Brenner, a vice president of development for the Rio Grande Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank in New Mexico, is running for the school board in Rio Rancho, New Mexico’s third-largest city composed mostly of Anglos and Hispanics. According to Brenner’s personal blog, he believes the district’s teachers are being trained in critical race theory, which will result in “All white people” feeling guilty “for being white,” including his 8-year-old daughter.
Statewide, there’s a shortage of available housing for offenders exiting prison.State lawmakers got the bad news Wednesday during a hearing of the Courts, Corrections and Justice legislative committee. There are many challenges to placing prisoners in communities, according to New Mexico corrections officials and a program manager for an Albuquerque transitional living center.Like many corrections systems, New Mexico has long struggled to keep offenders from bouncing back into incarceration, a cycle known as recidivism.In late 2019, the rate of offenders returning to behind bars — measured in the three years after a person gets out — stood at 57% “from a high of 60%”, but well above the department’s target of a 45% rate, the New Mexico Legislature’s budget arm noted in a recent report.The lack of housing increases the turnstile of recidivism. Having a stable place to live helps the chances of successful reentry for a formerly incarcerated person. Said another way, it lowers the likelihood a person will return to prison. I’ve learned over the years reading government reports and scholarly studies that housing, like education, has positive effects on a person’s life as they return to society. Don’t take my word for it.”Having a stable home is a fundamental part of reentering society, providing a place from which to orient oneself while beginning to search for employment, reestablish social networks, and get treatment.” That’s an excerpt from a December 2019 report by the Criminal Justice Policy Group of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.It might seem a bit esoteric, worrying about how many former prisoners go back to prison, but it affects all of us. The person trying to escape the cycle and their families.