The Land of Disenchantment

By Daryl Candelaria

New Mexico's motto, "The Land of Enchantment," suits the state well. With breathtaking colorful deserts, mesas, and mountains as well as stunning sunsets and a deep multicultural heritage, New Mexico has a unique aura that draws thousands of visitors annually. However, there is a dark side to this state, known for its year-round sunshine.

Recent allegations of pay-to-play practices involving the administration of New Mexico's governor, Bill Richardson, sparked a renewed debate about the breadth of corruption in our state. In the last few years corruption has brought down the careers of some of New Mexico's most powerful and prominent politicians, including a former senate president, a former Albuquerque mayor and two former state treasurers. With these new allegations involving Governor Richardson, it sometimes seems as if no politician is immune to the taint of corruption in New Mexico. Each new month seems to bring fresh allegations of official misconduct.

To make matters worse, New Mexico has some of the weakest ethics laws in the nation, including having no independent ethics commission and, until recently, no campaign contribution limits whatsoever. Most New Mexico politicians are honest people, but our lack of strong ethics laws encourages a few bad apples to exploit a weak regulatory system.

As a resident of New Mexico from San Felipe Pueblo, I find this issue fits perfectly with my area of scholarly interest at the University of New Mexico, where I am majoring in Native American Studies with a concentration in Leadership and Self-determination with a minor in Political Science. During the 2009 spring semester, I interned with Common Cause New Mexico, which is a non-partisan advocacy group whose purpose is to reform government and make it more accountable to ordinary citizens. Under the guidance of Common Cause New Mexico director Steven Allen, I assisted with various tasks designed to help advance the goal of improving our state's weak ethics laws. In particular, I help with communications work, including projects designed to inform Common Cause membership, the general public and key legislators about the need to pass major reform legislation during the 2009 New Mexico Legislative Session.

I found the experience to be very rewarding and eye opening as I witnessed the many obstacles and hurdles one must jump through to successfully pass a bill. I also learned that ethics and campaign finance reform is particularly difficult to pass because such laws require that legislators vote to restrict their own activities and increase public scrutiny over their own behavior.

The 2009 New Mexico Legislative Session proved to be successful with regard to the passage of key government reform bills thanks to the perseverance of organizations like Common Cause New Mexico and numerous reform-minded legislators. Common Cause was instrumental in the passage of the following bills and initiatives during this year's legislative session:

  • SB 116, a bill that places a limit on the amount of campaign contributions that can be given to candidates, political action committees and political parties;
  • HB 393, a bill that opens conference committees to the public;
  • SB 212, a bill that increases campaign reporting requirements for candidates; and
  • Senate and House resolutions to implement online audio casts of proceedings in each chamber.

The successful passage of these bills reflects the change, accountability and transparency that are needed to restore confidence in elected officials in the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico still has a long way to go before government is fully reformed in this state, but I applaud the work of Common Cause New Mexico and those state legislators who fight for genuine change in New Mexico politics.

Daryl Candelaria is a member of San Felipe Pueblo and lives in his home community. Candelaria is a senior at the University of New Mexico working on a BA degree in Native American Studies (focus in Leadership and Self-Determination) with a minor in Political Science.

This blog originally appeared on on Monday May 4, 2009 and was reposted courtesy of


Dance Your Own Dance

By Tavish Brown
Dawn of Nations Today

On March 17, 2009, I had just returned to my dorm room from my 12:30 class.  I decided to get online and do a search using I typed in “Native American dances” and clicked on the ‘image button link’ to look at some images of Native American dances and groups. Living among the Pueblos for four years and seeing their style of dancing, I came across an unusual picture of a buffalo dancer wearing the buffalo hide with powwow regalia.

The image caught my attention because I have not seen any dancer dressed in that way. So I decided to click on the image to get a closer look and I immediately noticed the dancer was a non-Native. The name of the group was the Kwahadi Dancers. My next decision was to Google search the group and there it was: the official website of the Kwahadi Dancers.

The Kwahadi Dancers are made up of boys and girls scout troops located in Amarillo, Texas. The Kwahadi Ventures Crew, as they call it, have been performing powwow dances for many years and recently shifted to include dances from some Southwest tribes. According to the history section on the Kwahadi website in the early to late 1920s a Ralph Hubbard and a Dr. Colgate were influenced by "Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show” and Horace Greeley's, "Go west, young man, go west!" Colgate in particular was "fascinated by the Indian dances and crafts." Eventually Colgate and another man by the name of Ralph Irelan became Scout Masters. Colgate and Ireland had their troop perform primarily Plains dances for a supposed one-time show.  The year was 1944. This one performance resulted into several more performances and the group was established. A Comanche elder gave the Kwahadi their name, meaning a band of Comanche people who hunted on the High Plains of Texas.

I came across a photo link which provided images of the dance group. When I saw these images, I was speechless. I did not know what to say about these images, which showed non-Natives in Pueblo mantas and kilts, painted faces and headdresses, and dancers coming down from a replica of a kiva. Their style of dress mixed Navajo headdresses with Pueblo styles. Some images have been taken down from the web, but I am lucky to have saved what I can for documentation.

These non-Natives are "performing" the pottery, rainbow, buffalo, eagle and even katchina dances of various Southwest tribes. The ribbon dance, which is sacred to the Navajo people, and the crown dances of the Apache tribe have been performed too. I began to ask myself why these non-Native people are mimicking Native American people? I asked myself who gave them permission to dance these Native American dances?

I am Navajo and am part of a dance group called the Dinehtah Navajo Dancers from Albuquerque, N.M. Through this group I learned a lot about not only my tribe but other Native people and their ways of life. Native American dances have religious content and take many years of hard work and dedication to learn.

Non-Native people performing our dances is an act of plagiarism. They have taken what is not theirs without permission. They state their intentions is “not to play Indian or to be Indian.” Seeing them perform and mimic sacred dances and dress makes me feel that these individuals in Amarillo have nothing colorful in their lives, so they have to take from Native people. The website says that they have “respect and gratitude [from their] native friends and [they are able] to share interpretive performances.”

In the late 1800s, a similar historical event happened between a non-Native society and the Hopi tribe. The Smoki (pronounced: smoke-eyes) performed the Snake Dance of the Hopi tribe. The Smoki built a museum in Arizona called the The Smoki Museum. This museum—similar to the Kwahadis’ museum, the Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian—brought in money from performances that were held daily. In both cases, non-Natives are making money off Native people.

These troops do not know our stories and the meaning behind our dances. I find their activities disrespectful. What can we do as Native people to stop these individuals and protect the sacredness of our culture? I feel we can start by notifying and informing our Native people about these groups. Also, we need to push to have the many images and videos removed from the Internet.

Dawn of Nations Today Volumn 4; Issue 1; May 2009, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.

Dawn of Nations Today is a special edition published by the Native American Studies Department, University College, University of New Mexico
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