The board of trustees of Santa Fe Indian School reiterated this week that it will not install a casino on its property, but it does want to pursue commercial development that would help the school become self-supporting.
It also said in a news release that it will not sell alcohol or tobacco on the school’s property along Cerrillos Road.
Edward Calabaza, spokesman for the school, told the Journal last month that retail uses are being discussed for the property, including shops, restaurants, a hotel and medical offices. The intention is to link businesses built on the grounds with internship and training opportunities for students, he said then.
A cultural center also has been discussed, according to a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Ben Luján, D-N.M., who shepherded a bill through the House of Representatives allowing the grounds to be used for economic development projects for the school.
That law change still needs to make its way through the Senate, and Indian School officials are planning a trip to Washington, D.C., soon to meet with New Mexico senators, as well as members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Calabaza said Tuesday.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman has spoken out against changing the federal law under which the school operates, while Sen. Tom Udall had not taken a stand pending further discussions.
“Basically, we’re in a holding pattern right now,” Calabaza said of the wait for Congress to change the law. “We don’t know what we would put in there.”
In the news release, Everett Chavez, SFIS superintendent, said development on the property would create jobs for not only the school, but the surrounding community as well.
“The funds raised from the development would go toward the benefit and advancement of Pueblo education overall, including much needed student programs and equipment,” he said in the release. It also would relieve the school of the need to rely on federal and state support, he pointed out.
Gov. Susana Martinez, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and state Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela support the school’s plans, according to Chavez.