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Recognizing American Indian Religious and Spiritual Observances

To: All Faculty, ABCD Distribution

From: Michael Ray, Director, American Indian Program

RE: Recognizing American Indian Religious and Spiritual Observances


New Mexico is a state endowed with true diversity. A myriad of vibrant cultures with strong traditions
coexist here, including 23 sovereign Indigenous entities. Nineteen are Pueblo communities, three are
Apache groups, and the largest-the Navajo Nation--occupies much of northwest New Mexico and
reaches deep into Arizona and Utah.

Each tribal community hosts annual public events and visitors are welcome in the various communities
during those times. Spiritual practices, however, are different. The overwhelming majority of New
Mexico tribal people and their communities engage in their spiritual practices privately. Spirituality and
ritual are highly private matters and will not normally be discussed with non-community members. These
practices are not public information and attempting to obtain information about these practices can be
regarded as invasive. While attending NMSU in Las Cruces, most New Mexico and out-of-state tribal
students will maintain close connections with their communities, returning home as their sense of
obligation or desire for participation warrants.

The acceptance that not all information is public information contributes to our enduring ability to coexist.
Respect for others and cultural sensitivity are just two of the attributes that make New Mexico such
an enchanting place. Please be fair and encourage open channels of communication with your students.

As professional educators at our state university and as citizens of New Mexico, we should familiarize
ourselves with the Indigenous peoples of our region. Although no one web site can provide a
comprehensive education about the tribal communities, here are some links for reference:

For additional questions, please call the American Indian Program at (575) 646-4207.