Education | National

Native Sun News: Santa Fe Indian School looks toward its future

The following story was written and reported by David Arredondo, Native Sun News Summer Journalism Intern. All content © Native Sun News.

In 2010, Southwest Youth Services hosted the 4th annual Indigenous Soccer Cup tournament in partnership with Santa Fe Indian School in New Mexico. The tournament emphasized the importance of giving back to others. The school is currently the subject of a proposed U.S. House bill to allow the initiation of economic development projects for academic, cultural and health purposes. PHOTO COURTESY/SYSNM.WORDPRESS.COM

Santa Fe Indian School looks to future
US House bill seeks to spur growth for N.M. school
By David Arredondo
Native Sun News
Summer Journalism Intern

SANTA FE, N.M. –– If all goes well and U.S. House Resolution 1556 is passed, Santa Fe Indian School will be able to begin much-needed economic development projects soon.

The Santa Fe Indian School is owned and operated by the 19 sovereign Pueblos of New Mexico.

The proposed HR1556 is an amendment of the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act, which was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton on Dec. 27, 2000. This act – Public Law 106-568 – originally stated that the land in trust to the All Indian Pueblo Council could only be used for educational, health or cultural purposes at the benefit of SFIS. The school was previously run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The amendment adds the ability for the school to initiate economic development programs on the 115 acres of school land to generate funds to serve the previous purposes of the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act. It was started in 2011 at the behest of the school and the council and is sponsored by Democratic New Mexico Rep. Ben R. Luján.

Part of the AIPC’s mission, according to their website, is to “promote justice and to encourage the common welfare of the Pueblo peoples. We address governmental policy and social issues.”

Congressman Luján has also been instrumental in getting the bill through Congress.

“(The bill) will help Santa Fe Indian School and New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos achieve educational sovereignty for Native American students across New Mexico,” said Luján, while speaking on the House floor June 18. He also said, “I am proud to be able to assist Santa Fe Indian School in amending the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act to allow the school to achieve new heights in educating Native American students.”

HR1556 passed unanimously by the House of Representatives without amendment on June 18 and is now awaiting a decision from the U.S. Senate in the next step before being considered by the president of the United States.

The bill hasn’t been amended since it was introduced and passed through the House Committee of Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs during initial consideration last year.

The school educates middle and high school kids and has an average enrollment of 700 students per academic year, with classrooms, dormitories and activity buildings on campus. The current superintendent of the school is Everett Chavez, who was appointed the position in 2009.

Plans for commercial development of the land are currently being deliberated by SFIS. On June 20, a spokesperson for Luján told the Albuquerque Journal that the land may be used for a new cultural center or for retail stores but that there isn’t anything specifically planned yet.

One thing that won’t be developed is a casino – the original draft of the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act decreed that any gaming operation could not be instituted on the land.

Still, any monetary gains from any project on the land will directly benefit the school as stated in the revised law.

SFIS officials are wasting no time with the development. In 2008, they demolished several buildings and cut down trees on the campus to make space for, presumably, the new economic endeavors.

But the plans for development of such projects may be derailed. Democrat Jeff Bingaman, the senior U.S. senator for New Mexico, has made it known that he doesn’t approve of HR1556.

“Before the Santa Fe Indian School property was transferred into trust, there was an agreement by all parties that the land would be used by AIPC to support three key areas: health care, culture and education,” said Bingaman in a statement issued by his office on June 19. “I remain convinced that the Santa Fe Indian School should continue to be used for those three purposes – not commercial development.”

The prognosis of the bill on indicated that only “29 percent of all House bills reported favorably by committee in 2009-2010 were enacted.”

Native Sun News was unable to directly contact Santa Fe Indian School and All Indian Pueblo Council officials as well as Luján by news deadline on July 13.

As of July 13, there is still no word on any official economic projects on the school’s land or on when a final decision will be made for HR1556.

(Contact David Arredondo at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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