ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A broad coalition of Indigenous leaders in New Mexico called for the resignation Friday of the director of a legislative agency on public education, arguing undisclosed comments made by the top official were disparaging toward Native Americans.

At a rally and news conference convened by the All Pueblo Council of Governors, Native American leaders and advocates condemned comments made at least two years ago by Rachel Gudgel. Gudgel is the director of the Legislative Education Study Committee, which provides education research and guidance to legislators.

“The New Mexico legislature and public education policymakers need to know that a strong cultural identity is important for our children’s academic progress. In addition to math, reading, science and the arts, our children need to know about their history, traditions, Native languages, and tribal laws,” APCG Chairman Wilfred Herrera said in a statement. “The Legislative Education Study Committee has a responsibility to shift the paradigm and that begins by removing its controversial director.”

All Pueblo Council of Governors Chairman Wilfred Herrera Jr. poses for a photo after a listening session. (Photo by Aliyah Chavez, Indian Country Today)

Gudgel apologized this week to members of more than 20 Native American tribes and nations across New Mexico, acknowledging that her past comments were insensitive, insulting and harmful. She declined to comment further when contacted by phone Friday.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors unites leaders of roughly 20 Indian pueblo communities. A youth committee has launched a petition calling for Gudgel to resign.

The gathering on Friday was also a forum for concerns about shortcomings in state funding and consultation with tribes on public education spending and proposed reforms.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announces her decision to sign a law that legalizes recreational marijuana outside the state Capitol building in Santa Fe, N.M., on Monday, April 12, 2021. The Democratic governor described the law as a victory for social justice and a potential boon for economic development. Her decision makes New Mexico the seventh state since last November to legalize adult possession and sales of cannabis for recreational use. The legislation gives the governor strong oversight through the governor's appointed superintendent of the Regulation and Licensing Department. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

Legislators and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have grappled for years with a landmark 2018 state court ruling that found New Mexico is failing to provide basic educational opportunities to students from minority and low-income households.

AP Logo little