The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission is hosting public hearings on the treatment of Navajo citizens by law enforcement in border towns. In 2008, the NNHRC hosted several public hearings that examined race relations between Navajo and non-Navajo citizens. The Commission found that there is a serious lack of understanding of Navajo culture by border town law enforcement.
The Commission’s first public hearing was Dec 3, 2014, at the Torreon, NM, Chapter, and in Cuba, NM. The second hearing was on Dec 4, 2014, at the Albuquerque, NM, Indian Center. There are four more hearings: Jan. 7, 2015, at the Gallup, NM, Community Service Center; Jan. 8, 2015, in Flagstaff, Az.; Feb. 4, 2015, at the Cortez, Colo., City Hall, and Feb.5, 2015, at the Farmington, NM, Civic Center.
For more information, contact the Navajo Nation Human Right Commission office, Window Rock, Ariz., at 928-871-7436.
Racial profiling by law enforcement has once again become a national issue but the focus is primarily on the Black community because of Black civilians dying at the hands of police officers. But Navajo people, men and women, are also dying at the hands of police officers in Albuquerque. And these Navajo people are homeless people. I did an interview about the abusive treatment of our Navajo relatives and other Indigenous relatives by police officers with Navajo Nation Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Jennifer Denetdale and University of New Mexico-Albuquerque graduate student Nick Estes, who shared shocking and heartbreaking research that he did about the Indigenous community in Albuquerque, N.M.
Dr. Denetdale talked about some of the testimony that she heard during the public hearings that the Navajo Human Rights Commission is sponsoring regarding the treatment of Navajo citizens by border town police.
My interview with Dr. Denetdale and Estes was during my BlogTalkRadio show, “Navajo News Without Borders” (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/navajonewswithoutborders/2014/12/05/navajo-news-without-borders-aka-indigenous-news-from-the-navajo-rez) on Dec. 4, 2014.
And now NM Sen. George Munoz (D-4-Cibola/McKinley/San Juan), is hosting a public meeting with the NM Department Indian Affairs, the NM Department of Health and McKinley County, on Dec.8, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. at the Lighthouse Church, 2045 Westview St., Gallup, NM, because Munoz believes that Gallup’s “alcohol abuse issue is directly related to the crime rates…and we need to get down to the root of the problem and come up with effective solutions collectively.”
Gallup has a controversial history involving alcohol, racism, discrimination, and predatory pricing and lending practices, while claiming to be the “Indian Capital of the World.”
And based on Munoz’s November press releases, Munoz’s concerns about Gallup’s “high crime rates, along with the alcohol-related deaths in the area” were prompted by Federal Bureau of Investigation 2013 statistics that showed that Gallup had the highest violent crime rate in New Mexico.
Munoz stated that the FBI’s statistics were reported by the City of Gallup at a recent NM legislative committee meeting.
“The high crime rates, along with the alcohol-related deaths in the area, are of real concern to me. Alcoholism affects many people from different walks of life and those affected by this terrible disease are reaching for help, and in Gallup it does not really exist right now,” Munoz stated. “I believe that the alcohol abuse issue is directly related to the crimes rates in area and we need to get down to the root of the problem and come up with effective solutions collectively.”
Munoz stated in his press release that a specific concern he is planning to address, and that has been brought to his attention by his constituents, is the way the community’s local treatment/detox center is handling detox patients.
According to Munoz, the center used to host a 72 hour detox hold to assure intoxicated people, attained from the streets, were evaluated and kept until they sobered up.
Now, there is only a 12 hour hold policy, which he says is not a long enough period to guarantee that people are indeed sober when they are released back into the public.
“Re-implementing a 72 hour hold at the detox center is not the solution to the whole problem, but I believe it can relieve some of the negative repercussions we are seeing,” he stated. “I am especially concerned now, during the cold months, because intoxicated people have the potential to freeze to death if they’re out on the streets and are not able to get to a warm place. Although our main concern is treatment and preventative solutions, in the meantime, we have to provide resources like this to insure the safety of all community members.”
For information about the Dec. 8 public meeting, contact Munoz at email@example.com.
But once again Munoz and the City of Gallup have turned blind eyes and deaf ears on why Gallup is known internationally as “Drunk Town USA.”
Munoz and Gallup continue to blame the alcoholics but not the city’s liquor industry. And it is an industry.
On March 1, 1973, two young Navajo men walked into then Gallup Mayor Emmett Garcia’s office and forced him, at gun point, to begin a walk down the streets of Gallup.
The walk was to publicly humiliate Garcia for his ownership of a notorious liquor establishment near the Navajo Reservation while chairing the city’s liquor rehabilitation committee, accepting then Gov. Bruce King’s appointment to represent students of color on the University of New Mexico Board of Regents, and shutting down the Gallup Indian Center.
The two men were then UNM Kiva Club President LARRY CASUSE, 19, and his friend, Robert Nakaidinae.
The walk ended with state and city police posing over the bloodied and lifeless body of Casuse, which they had dragged from a sporting goods store along Route 66. Nakaidinae was arrested and sent to prison. Garcia escaped with a shotgun full of buckshot in his behind.
On Feb. 23, 2013, about 40 people of all ages, males and females, Navajos and non-Navajos, gathered at the federal courthouse plaza in Gallup, NM, to remember Casuse, Nakaidinae and the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, S.D., by the American Indian Movement.
Casuse’s two older sisters, Ursula Casuse-Carillo and Erika Casuse, attended the memorial and spoke briefly about Larry, whom they remembered as a caring little brother.
They also thanked everyone for remembering Larry and urged everyone to attend the Kiva Club’s 40th anniversary of the Larry Casuse Memorial at the UNM Albuquerque Student Union grand ballroom at 2 p.m. on March 3.
“If he was here today, things would be different,” Ursula said.
Ursula was referring to the continued high amount of liquor sales to Navajo people, and alcohol-related fatalities and arrests of predominantly Navajo people.
But shortly after the death of Larry, many of the liquor establishments in Gallup were shut down, including Garcia’s very lucrative liquor store, Navajo Inn, which was about a mile from the Navajo reservation border and a couple of miles from the Navajo Nation’s capitol, Window Rock.
Garcia also lost his re-election and resigned as a member of the UNM Board of Regents, which triggered the end to his political aspirations and grooming by then Gov. King to eventually become governor.
And for one day, Gallup was shut down by more than 3,000 people representing tribes from across the country, Pueblos, Brown Berets, Hispanics, Blacks, Anglos, Kiva Club members, Indians Against Exploitation, and the American Indian Movement who walked peacefully through Gallup.
In 2002, Garcia returned to Gallup for the first time since the death of Casuse and shared his memories, along with then Police Chief Manuel Gonzales, with students at the Gallup High School and UNM Gallup as part of his announcement that he was writing a book about the incident.
Garcia portrayed Casuse as a confused young man, who was manipulated by former Gallup Urban Renewal Project Director Ray Carillo and his assistant Pete Maldonado.
He said that Carillo and Maldonado used Casuse to attack him because he had found out that Carillo and Maldonado had stolen federal housing money, which he was planning to report to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development.
When supporters of Casuse confronted Garcia about his accusations, Garcia said he had documentation, which he never produced.
Gonzales remembered calling for all off-duty police officers to report to the sporting goods store where Casuse and Nakaidinae were holding Garcia at gun-point.
He said that a state police captain heard his call and ordered state police officers to Gallup.
Gonzales said that as soon as Garcia escaped “everybody opened fire into that store – shotguns, rifles, 30-odd 6’s, pistols.”
He also recalled Nakaidinae exiting the store with his hands raised and pleading for help for Larry, who Nakaidinae described as lying on the floor inside bleeding.
Nakaidinae, who passed away a couple of years ago from cancer, said in a 2002 telephone interview that Larry, who had been shot five times, was alive when he left him and that “he was in no condition to do anything.”
Gonzales said that a couple of officers went into the store and Larry was dead.
But spectators at the shoot-out said that one gunshot was heard after the police entered the store. Others said that the single gunshot was heard right before the officers entered the store. An autopsy of Larry showed a gunshot wound under his chin and through his head.
“But that’s what happens when you pull serious crimes like that,” Gonzales said in a taped interview. “You’re going to come out on the short end. There’s other police officers that are going to make sure that you never do it again.
“It’s not the right thing to think but that’s the way it is. Courts don’t do it. Courts are too lenient. And sometimes a police officer knows what he can do and what he can’t do. But he gets the opportunity, he’s going to do what has to be done to eliminate the problem,” Gonzales explained.
Gonzales, who also lost his re-election bid for police chief, apologized for allowing his officers to pose with Larry’s dead body.
Erika said that it was a few years ago that she and her family finally got the Gallup police to take down the March 2, 1973, front page of the Gallup Independent, which had the photo of the officers and Larry.
The front page with the photo of the officers and Larry was hanging in a glass case at the police auxiliary.
Both Ursula and Erika supported a call by the group to erect a memorial to Casuse and Nakaidinae in the plaza.
In February 2013, I telephoned Gallup Mayor Jackie McKinney and City Manager Dan Dible and left messages regarding the proposal to erect a memorial. I never received a reply from McKinney and Dible.
Lenny Foster, who was part of the Wounded Knee takeover, said in February 2013 that news of the shooting of Larry and imprisonment of Nakaidinae reached Wounded Knee but it was described as a fire fight between police and students.
Foster said that when he returned from Wounded Knee in June 1973, he found out it was his friend Larry who was killed by the police.
He said the takeover of Wounded Knee and kidnapping of Garcia was because “we were young, idealistic and frustrated” with the lack of response from those in leadership positions to actually acknowledge that the first people of this land and their homeland were being exploited for money.