Homelessness and its related problems have been issues in Albuquerque for years. I don’t know what the official estimated numbers are today, but there are thousands of urban American Indian people in Albuquerque that are homeless and needing help.
Their problems include alcoholism, poverty, domestic abuse, suicides, mental illness and a list of other threats. These people are forgotten and are treated as invisible until something happens.
Also making the news recently is the never-ending push by a minority of misguided Indian activists and their few, but well-placed, politically correct supporters whose No. 1 priority is not the humanitarian issues of American Indians, on or off reservations, but the elimination of the use of the term Redskins.
Or should I say the use of the Redskin name by non-Indians, because according to this self-appointed group it is OK and does not traumatize kids when we Indians call ourselves Redskins. This only happens when non-Indians use the term, and it is apparently worse when the Washington NFL team uses it.
I have challenged this group many times by asking them: Can you imagine how much good you could accomplish for Indian people if you put half as much energy, resources and attention toward addressing these real issues as you put into this ridiculous anti-Redskins issue?
I have never seen a poll or study anywhere that had support for eliminating the Redskin name over 20 percent. Never. Never on or off reservation and never whether looked at by the full U.S. population or just by American Indian people. Never.
The recent Albuquerque Journal poll had the number at 18 percent.
Can you imagine how much attention American Indian homelessness, alcoholism, domestic abuse, suicides and other issues would have gotten if ESPN spent the same amount of time on these issues as they do supporting this ridiculous anti-Redskin cause? What about the show Real Sports; what about President Obama and his Democratic senators?
We now have a school having Indian children writing letters to whomever about the Redskins name change. Can you imagine how many people would have been helped already over the years had we focused our attention on the real issues?
I challenge them once again: Drop this radical and misguided effort of a minority of people that divides our communities and put your efforts into really helping your blood brothers.
I also challenge our tribal governments to step up efforts to directly address these issues. If you want Albuquerque to be “proactive,” then shouldn’t you be proactive as well? If you have the right to “determine whether the brutal attack was an isolated incident or a pattern of violence,” then don’t you have a responsibility to aid your tribal members before they are killed?
There are numerous organizations that work below the radar every day. Help these invisible and forgotten people, whether Indian or non-Indian. I and many hundreds of people will work side by side with you.
There are organizations from the United Way, Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico, Albuquerque Public Schools clothes drives, the Albuquerque Urban Indian Center, Indian Health Services, churches and many other organizations that need help and that work on these issues every day.
These two men might be alive today if we had shifted our efforts to their real-world plight.
Ronald G. Toya is a member of Jemez Pueblo.