Isolated, insensitive comments highlighted my ignorance - Albuquerque Journal

Isolated, insensitive comments highlighted my ignorance

To New Mexico tribes, nations and pueblos, and your children and families,

As has been heavily reported, I made some isolated, insensitive comments about Native Americans and Native American education in 2019 that were insulting and harmful. I very much regret the impact of my ignorant choice of words and cavalier attitude, and apologize to New Mexico tribal leadership and their communities, families and children, and to the staff of the Legislative Education Study Committee, for not being more thoughtful or informed. I further regret that these transgressions have taken the focus away from the work of the committee to develop policy and support resources for New Mexico children – especially Native American students.

The comments I made were not intended to be disrespectful, harmful or insulting, but exemplified my knowledge gap of Native American histories and cultures in New Mexico. I am deeply sorry and sincerely regret these statements. I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I realize that my comments were hurtful and caused disharmony to you, your families and children, and to Navajo, pueblo and Apache tribal communities.

I have spent much time reflecting on my actions and I take sole responsibility for them. I have since worked to become better informed, and to be a better supervisor and better person. I learned a lot from the initial fallout and the more recent attention is an important reminder that growth is an ongoing process. Last year, following the reprimand by my employer, I started on a mission of increasing my understanding and exposure to other peoples’ values, cultures, beliefs and experiences.

My recent conversations with Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Vice President Myron Lizer and other Native American community members are opening the door for me to further reflect on this difficult experience, with the goal of respectfully listening, learning and understanding. These conversations have been very humbling for me and provide a needed understanding to be more culturally sensitive and effective on behalf of all New Mexicans, particularly our pueblos, tribes and nations.

My decision to remain quiet until now was based on the fact that this is, and was, a part of a confidential personnel matter reviewed by my employer, and the process and knowledge that my employer’s reprimand and corrective action addressed this sad and unfortunate chapter in my government career.

I am eager to put these events behind me and help the committee continue to work collaboratively with the tribes, nations and pueblos of New Mexico to focus on the great challenges Native students face.

On ending, I again sincerely and humbly ask for your forgiveness. I was wrong and am deeply sorry.

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