Pueblo of Santa Clara, New Mexico


The New Mexico attorney general's office says tribal police lack authority to bar non-Indians from legally using state roads that cross tribal land - and cannot arrest them for doing so. The non-binding opinion was issued in late April in response to an incident involving the pueblo and a newspaper reporter. The reporter tried to photograph a fatal accident that occurred during a high-speed chase involving tribal police on N.M. 30 last November. When the reporter tried to approach the accident scene, he was threatened with arrest by Santa Clara Pueblo police. Assistant Attorney General Daniel Rubin wrote April 26 that tribal police officers cannot arrest non-Indian motorists on public highways crossing tribal land without help from state police or a sheriff unless they are duly commissioned New Mexico officers themselves. The conclusion was confined to N.M. 30 and Santa Clara Pueblo. Under a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, he said, a tribe "lacks governing authority over a right-of-way held by a state unless such authority is reserved in the right-of-way document. The Santa Clara Pueblo failed to retain any gatekeeping or similar rights to the right-of-way otherwise known as State Road 30. State law, not tribal law, applies to the right-of-way."