On Feb. 20, 2020, I was driving from Rio Rancho to my home in Cuba, N.M. I had often thought of visiting the Zia Pueblo, and I found on this trip that I had plenty of time to make that visit and learn what I could about the Zia people.
Turning off of Hwy. 550 and onto the road into the Pueblo, signs immediately pointed out the Tribal Office and other services buildings. There was no welcome sign; instead, a long list of “not allowed” activities. No camping, no fires, no cameras, no photography, etc. I proceeded to the main office for information.
Once inside, I asked the receptionist for a map, regulation[s], basically any tourist “stuff.” We had a nice short conversation, [but] she didn’t have anything like that and referred me upstairs to another receptionist. The receptionist upstairs answered a few questions and also told me they have nothing for tourists. I told her I was interested in taking pictures and just sightseeing. I noticed two gentlemen standing nearby, listening. I [asked] the receptionist, “Really, you don’t have maps or information for tourists? That’s not very welcoming for people who want to see the Pueblo.” She said, “We don’t get many tourists, and we don’t want any.” The two men nearby heard the exchange; one approached me and introduced himself as Fred Medina, the Governor of Zia Pueblo. He said, “We don’t have anything like that. You can’t even enter the Pueblo without proper authorization, so you’ll have to leave. We don’t need that kind of attitude.” I think he got “that kind of attitude” from what I said to the receptionist. The two men then directed me to the stairs and down to the lobby. Once there, I started toward the receptionist and the governor said, “I said you have to leave.” I said, “Okay, no problem.” I wanted to thank the receptionist and get a business card, and when I turned toward her, the governor grabbed my arm with both hands and shoved me toward the door and said again, “We said you have to leave.” I yelled, “Stop!” I cursed at him because he was still holding onto my arm. He finally let go. I calmly asked him, “Why are you doing this? I was just asking questions. Do you realize you just assaulted a 69-year-old man?” He said, “I didn’t assault you!” I said, “Yes, governor, you did, and your friend her and your receptionist saw you do it.” He again pushed me to the door. “I don’t need your attitude, get out!”
Except when he grabbed me, I remained calm and levelheaded. I couldn’t believe this man was physically and verbally abusing me! I didn’t want this to go any further, so I easily agreed I had to leave and exited the building. I asked him one more question, “Does your power as governor allow you to attack outsiders?” He just yelled, “Leave!” Two police (?) officers who were coming in turned and pointed the way out the door. Once outside, I saw at least three police cars, trucks and four or five officers who evidently came to throw me out. They promptly “corralled” me to my truck. I heard the governor yell out, “And don’t come back!” I departed the parking lot; one of the officers ran behind my truck and noted my plate numbers. As I left the complex one of the officers pulled out behind me and followed me onto Hwy. 550 and six miles all the way to San Ysidro.
This was all very disturbing. This man is the governor of a sovereign state, equal to the governor of any of our United States. It was as if Gov. Lujan Grisham or Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey had attacked me. How could this man stomp on my civil rights and basic human rights? How can this man expect respect, both personal and tribal, with this kind of behavior? I don’t believe he is worthy of the title.
I spoke to the offices of Congresswoman Debra Haaland and Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, seeking advice. All of the above said, “As a sovereign nation, there is nothing that can be done for any form of justice.” Basically, I was told I was on my own. I pray the Zia people don't suffer as the result of a bad Governor.