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Tribal Council Says Custom, Constitution Bar Election Of Woman

December 29, 1986

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ The tribal council of the Pueblo of Isleta, citing its customs and its constitution, has postponed an election that would have allowed a woman to become its first female elected official.

Council President Ernest Jaramillo said Sunday the pueblo’s constitution does not allow women to run for office, and that the candidacy of Verna Williamson conflicts with the pueblo’s customs and tradition.

Tribal Court Judge Lorenzo R. Jojola had ruled Friday that Ms. Williamson was properly nominated and certified and that the election scheduled for Tuesday should be held.

But Jaramillo said Jojola has no say in the matter. He said the council runs elections for the pueblo, a tribe of about 3,000 located about 20 miles south of Albuquerque.

″The tribal council has final jurisdiction, it is not subject to review. The council has absolute power to settle all election disputes,″ Jaramillo said.

Christine Zuni, Ms. Williamson’s attorney, said the court had ruled the issue was not an election dispute but a constitutional matter that should be handled in the courts.

″This is a message for all our daughters,″ Ms. Williamson said of the court decision. ″We need to recognize the resources of women.″

Ms. Williamson, the first woman to seek office in the pueblo, was one of three winners of a primary earlier this month. The election would determine which candidate would become governor, with the second-place finisher becoming council president and the third-place finisher vice president.

Ms. Williamson said she disagrees with the council’s claim that she is breaking tribal tradition. She said the pueblo’s government is not traditional.

″We have had a constitutional government since 1943,″ she said. ″Things have been changing since 1943.″

Jaramaillo said it is the council’s responsibility to maintain and protect traditions.

″By changing our traditions we would be assimilating and eventually would become just another community,″ he said.

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