Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, center in glasses, is seen with Head Start student from the Pueblo of Zuni during Indian Day at the New Mexico Legislature on February 2, 2018. Photo: Office of the President and Vice President

Top Indian education official in New Mexico accepts 'termination'

The top Indian education official in New Mexico was fired from her job last week.

Latifah Phillips, a citizen of the Tohono O’odham Nation, served as the Assistant Secretary of Indian Education up until March 19. That's when she said she was "presented with the opportunity to resign" for unexplained reasons, according to a letter obtained by New Mexico In Depth.

She chose to be fired instead.

"My decision not to resign but accept termination is a small act of protest to the unfairness of this action in comparison to your life-long advocacy for equity and justice for your children," Phillips wrote in the letter, which was addressed to tribal leaders.

Phillips did not respond to New Mexico In Depth's request for comments about her termination, nor did the state Public Education Department. The department's website now lists DeAlva Calabaza, who hails from Kewa, also known as Santo Domingo Pueblo, as the "acting' assistant secretary.

The department sent a statement to The Albuquerque Journal describing the situation as a “confidential personnel matter” and wouldn't answer questions about it, the paper reported.

The state is observing the 15th anniversary of the Indian Education Act, which was written to raise achievement levels of Indian students, promote tribal cultures and engage with tribes on a government-to-government basis. Phillips participated in a celebration of the law last month at the State Capitol in Santa Fe, KWRG reported.

Read More on the Story:
NM assistant secretary for Indian education ousted (New Mexico In Depth March 28, 2018)
PED terminates leader of Indian Education Division (The Albuquerque Journal March 30, 2018)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Tribes upset after education official offered praise for 'Manifest Destiny' (January 10, 2018)