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Power Brokers III: 11 Native State Legislators in Arizona & New Mexico

Multiple American Indian tribes and pueblos call New Mexico and Arizona home, and having American Indian state legislators is always a good thing.

Traveling west out of Texas on I-40, the landscape makes a gradual change into New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Mesas push out of the earth. Forgotten towns that once teemed with life are slowly reclaimed by Nature. Sunsets seem to last forever with a unique sense of color and shading.

Although the Southwest is known for its natural beauty, it is also a region where Native people have stood their ground for indigenous rights since at least 1680, the time of the Pueblo Revolt. Today in the Southwest, with issues such as strip mining and banning of cultural studies courses in Arizona public schools, Native legislators have an uphill climb to ensure strong intertribal-state relations.


Arizona’s House of Representatives has four Native members out of a total of 60 legislators. Their range of experience includes tribal government, law, television media and military service.

Sally Ann Gonzales (D)

House District: 3

Tribal Affiliation: Yaqui

Past legislative experience: Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council

Years in Office: 2010-Present

Committees: Health and Human Services; Employment and Regulatory Affairs; Technology and Infrastructure

Key Legislation: Optometry Board regulations; firefighter and EMT memorial; wastewater legislation; resolution recognizing autism organizations; pharmacy board regulations; Arizona medical board disciplinary action; monitoring of developmental disability services; World War II memorial; dental board investigations and disciplinary action; dental board fees; resolution recognizing Native American legislators.

Albert Hale (D)

House District: 7

Tribal Affiliation: Navajo Nation

Past legislative and executive experience: Arizona State Senate; Navajo Nation President

Years in Office: 2004-2011 (Arizona Senate); 2011-Present as Representative

Committees: House Rules; Judiciary; Energy, Environment and Natural Resources

Recent Key Legislation: Extraordinary Educators special plates; Firefighter and EMT Memorial; law regarding handyman exemptions; law regarding court-ordered treatment; laws regarding liquid petroleum gas; landlord-tenant agreements; World War II Memorial; post box addresses; resolution honoring Navajo Code Talkers; resolution on BIA routes and construction; foster care legislation; deed restrictions and for sale signs; school board memberships.

Jamescita Peshlakai (D)

House District: 7

Tribal Affiliation: Navajo Nation

Years in Office: 2013

Committees: Energy, Environment and Natural Resources; Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs

Key Legislation: Firefighter and EMT Memorial; surviving spouse of law enforcement officer legislation; laws determining length of term of a grand jury.

Victoria Steele (D)

House District: 9

Tribal Affiliation: Seneca/Mingo

Years in Office: 2012-Present

Committees: Ranking Democrat, Transportation; Health; Insurance and Retirement

Key Legislation: Expedited foster home approval; extraordinary educators special plates; non-resident tuition for provisional community colleges; legislation regarding separating service members; telemedicine laws; firefighter and EMT memorial; laws regarding surviving spouses of law enforcement; wastewater utility legislation; resolution recognizing autism organizations.

New Mexico

Native legislators are represented in both the Senate and House of Representatives in New Mexico. There are two Native legislators out of 42 in the Senate, and five Native legislators out of 70 in the New Mexico House. Their professional experience ranges from tribal government to insurance sales. Of note is the tenure of Navajo tribal member John Pinto, who is New Mexico’s longest-serving state senator.

John Pinto (D)

Senate District: 3

Tribal Affiliation: Navajo Nation

Years in Office: 1977-Present

Previous notable experience: Navajo Code Talker; legislative analyst for Navajo Nation; president of Central Consolidated School District

Committees: Chair, Indian and Cultural Affairs; Education.

Interim Committees: Co-Chair, Indian Affairs; Radioactive & Hazardous Materials; Military & Veterans Affairs; New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight; Legislative Education Study; Courts, Corrections & Justice; Compacts; Economic and Rural Development.

Recent Key Legislation: Support and Preservation of Code Talker Legacy; Gallup Indian Medical Center Replacement; Native American Enterprise Promotion; Study of Navajo Nation Land Exchange; Navajo Electrification Demo Program Funding.

Benny Shendo Jr. (D)

Senate District: 22

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Previous Legislative Experience: First Lt. Governor and Second Lt. Governor, Pueblo of Jemez

Tribal Affiliation: Jemez Pueblo

Years in Office: 2013

Committees: Conservation; Indian and Cultural Affairs

Interim Committees: Chair, Behavioral Health; Indian Affairs Commission; Legislative Health & Human Services; Public School Capital Outlay Oversight Task Force; Water & Natural Resources; Compacts (Advisory); Legislative Council; Legislative Finance

Key Legislation: Native American Suicide Prevention Council.

Sandra Jeff (D)

House District: 5

Tribal Affiliation: Navajo Nation

Years in Office: 2009-Present

Committees: Vice-Chair, Agriculture & Water Resources; Transportation & Public Works

Interim Committees: Indian Affairs; Behavioral Health; Economic & Rural Development; Legislative Health & Human Services; Mortgage Finance Authority Act Oversight; Public School Capital Outlay Oversight Task Force; Revenue Stabilization & Tax Policy

Recent Key Legislation: Native American Suicide Prevention Council; Tribal Infrastructure Project Fund Day; Native American Veterans Memorial.

Sharon Clahchischilliage (R)

House District: 4

Tribal Affiliation: Navajo Nation

Years in Office: 2013

Committees: Appropriations & Finance; Transportation & Public Works; Enrolling & Engrossing

Interim Committees: Compacts; Indian Affairs; New Mexico Finance Oversight; Public School Capital Outlay Oversight Task Force; Transportation Infrastructure Revenue; Water & Natural Resources

Key Legislation: No bill sponsorships signed into law at present.

Georgene Louis (D)

House District: 26

Tribal Affiliation: Acoma Pueblo

Years in Office: 2013

Committees: Vice-Chair, Judiciary; Business & Industry

Interim Committees: Courts, Corrections & Justice; Compacts; Legislative Ethics; Indian Affairs; Economic & Rural Development

Key Legislation: University of New Mexico School of Law Native American Programs.

James Roger Madalena (D)

House District: 65

Tribal Affiliation: Jemez Pueblo

Years in Office: 1985-Present

Committees: Chair, Health, Government & Indian Affairs; Energy & Natural Resources

Interim Committees: Chair, Legislative Health & Human Services; Vice-Chair, Compacts; Disabilities Concerns; Public School Capital Outlay Oversight Task Force; Indian Affairs; Water & Natural Resources (Advisory); Economic & Rural Development (Advisory); Mortgage Finance Authority Act Oversight (Advisory); Legislative Council (Advisory)

Recent Key Legislation: Law on Zia Pueblo and State of New Mexico’s Use of Zia Sun Symbol; Planning Summit for Indigenous Peoples.

Patricia Roybal Caballero (D)

House District: 13

Tribal Affiliation: Piro-Manso-Tiwa Pueblo

Years in Office: 2013

Committees: Vice-Chair, Consumer & Public Affairs; Judiciary

Interim Committees: Courts, Corrections & Justice (Advisory); Economic & Rural Development (Advisory); Indian Affairs (Advisory)

Key Legislation: Hispanic and Native American Job Skill Study.

Sources:;;;; Arizona Legislature Chief Clerk's Office; Laurie Canepa, New Mexico Legislative Council Service