RIP: Gladys is Dead, Long Live Gladys Kozoll

By: Bill Whaley
16 November, 2017

An advocate and activist for “Human Rights,” Taos Pueblo’s courageous Gladys Kozoll, a robust figure in body and mind, stood solidly on both sides of the cattle guard in an earlier decade. She confronted members of Tribal Government, the County Commission, Taos Municipal Schools, the Town and the Coop with their peccadilloes. Relatives found the body of Gladys Kozoll this week, a couple of days after she died at Taos Pueblo. Social Justice, whether white, brown, male or female, traditional or modern, individual or social, was synonymous with the name Gladys Kozoll.

Once, during the RISE years, when Residents in Support of Education from Taos Pueblo were fighting the Kachina Casino project, an Oklahoma Native American from the BIA called up Gladys to complain about this ponsigh (white man) reporter from Horse Fly. “Come up to my village,” said Gladys, “Come up to my village” and see what its like. I can see her smile and hear her laughter as she regaled me with Pueblo tales of chicanery and male supremacy at her kitchen table. Just as she held the BIA accountable, or Taos Pueblo Government, so she held me and her fellow members of RISE accountable. She challenged the BIA: “Come up to my village.”

She told me that in Indian Country BIA stood for “Bashing Indians Around” and FBI, “famous but incompetent.”

As Gladys pointed out to me, in the case of “Santa Clara v. Martinez,” the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in 1978 reversed a lower court decision, which had over-ruled a Tribal ordinance that denied membership rights to the children of a full-blooded Santa Clara woman, Julia Martinez, including the right to vote in Tribal elections, the right to remain on Rez, and the right to inherit property and the right to raise her children on the reservation because she was married to a Navajo man. But the same ordinance accorded full rights to the children of Santa Clara men, who married outside the Tribe.

The court left in tact issues of “social…self-definition” that “were basic to the tribe’s survival as a cultural and economic entity” and said “such a determination should be made by the people of Santa Clara not only because they can best decide what values are important, but also because they must live with the decision everyday.” Suits against tribes “under the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) ‘are barred by its sovereign immunity.” Congress intended to promote the federal “policy of furthering Indian self-government,” according to the court.

In other words, Santa Clara Pueblo and Taos Pueblo benefitted from SCOTUS’s decision as a special case, contrary to the human rights accorded to say American women off the reservation.  So patriarchal government i.e. Tribal Council and Tribal Government at Taos, who are 100% male, has been affirmed and institutionalized by the supreme law of the land. Other tribes have changed and promoted women as officers and governors.

Defenders of the decision, including Native American women attorneys have argued that the Tribe knows best. Gladys disagreed. And Gladys died alone.

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