Scrooge aka “Taos Pueblo WarChief” Shuts Down Santa’s Elves
Yesterday, Sunday, a single vendor defiantly set up shop on the south side of U.S. Highway 64 and brandished a “Sale” sign.
In recent months, Scrooge, not Santa, has been visiting Taos. First, the curmudgeon shut down the “Free Box” in Taos. Now this Scrooge, in the person of the Taos Pueblo WarChief, Edwin Concha, has shut down the vendors at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Sure, he got the DOT to do the dirty work—erect concrete barriers just in time to tamp down the Christmas Spirit for both vendors and tourists, who like to shop with freelancers at the bridge.
Fire Edwin: free the vendors
(Editor’s Note: Edwin Concha, former U.S. post office employee at the Albertson’s p.o. is the announced War Chief, responsible for everything “outside” the village. He’s considered mean spirited and hardly representative. Currently, the vendors are organizing to take action, whether in the courts, through the occupation of the bridge, or perhaps by marching to the borders of the cattle guards. Tribal government must ask itself why Edwin has chosen to shut down the opportunities for single mothers, mothers and fathers, a variety of individual traders to support themselves and their families. This is a federal highway, U.S. Highway 64. Since when does NMDOT play the heavy for the tribe? It is the single most selfish act taken by local government in recent years–though it competes with the closure of the “free box.” The vendors are cross-cultural in background and include members of Taos Pueblo.)
A Taos Wonder
The scene at the bridge is one of the few things in greater Taos that works well. First, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is one of the most popular sites for visitors. Second, the vendors police themselves, pick up the litter, and keep a close eye on each other. Some of the free lancers depend on the income to feed themselves, pay their rent and child support, keep body and soul together. Third, the east side of the bridge complements the state’s fine rest stop. There a miracle man keeps the public bathrooms and grounds tidy and clean. You can see license plates out there on a daily basis representing five different states. Fourth, there is no charge to walk on the BLM’s West Rim Trail, view the river and the gorge, take your dog for a walk, or watch the bighorn sheep gambol and dine on desert fodder.
But, apparently, the WarChief don’t want no stinkin’ vendors. He’s been out there several times this year, glowering at vendors. Now he’s got the state highway department to push the men and women, their vans and cars, out and away. On Prancer, on Dancer, on Vixen, away…
Sure, the contractor has been working on the bridge for months now…at a very slow pace. They pour a little concrete here, scrape and paint a few metal supports there. The portable traffic light restricts bridge traffic to one lane. We have no quarrel with the slow pace: It’s government work. And we have no quarrel with the people of Taos Pueblo or the DOT or even Gov. Martinez.
But nobody likes a bully.
In a story on Sunday by Karen Peterson / North Opinion Page Editor on Sun, Dec 4, 2011 of the Albuquerque Journal, it says, “ The state Department of Transportation began improvements to the east side of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on Friday, clearing the area of vendors who last year won a court battle over the legality of their activities.”
The story continues, saying, a DOT press release states “That “state law prohibits the operation of concession booths and roadside stands” on highway right of way and that the vendors’ “unlawful … activity violates the state’s right of way agreement with Taos Pueblo.”
“A department spokeswoman could not immediately explain how the vendors’ activity could be termed illegal when a judge had thrown the case out of court, or whether access to the area would be permanently blocked.
(Editor’s Note: What about all the highway vendors around the Blinking Light, not to mention the weekly infusion of newsies on Thursdays? Eh? Eh, DOT? Cowards!)
“The transportation department undertook the improvements in cooperation with Taos Pueblo, according to the news release. Plans call for plowing up the area and replanting native vegetation, as well as installing a post-and-cable barrier.
“Taos Pueblo War Chief Benito Concha said the pueblo had “nothing to do with the planning or the work” on the improvements, and that the pueblo’s cooperation had only involved the terms of the pueblo lease to the department for the right of way.
“They’ve plowed up the area where we were selling and put up concrete barriers,” said David Baca, who was a defendant in the case the department and New Mexico State Police brought against the vendors. But Baca said tribal police were much in evidence Friday, when the improvements began. “There was a huge pueblo police effort there,” he said. “I hate to say it, but it was a militaristic occupation – they blocked off access all around the bridge.”
Not only is the WarChief a scrooge but he has difficulty taking responsibility for the truth. He sounds like he speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He must be hanging round the white men who signed the broken treaties.
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