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N.M. Indian Pueblo Calls Murder Account "Appalling," Bans Newspaper Sales

Gov. of N.M. Indian Community Calls Story in Newspaper "Appalling," Bans Publication
Logo (Walatowa Visitor Center Web site)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CBS/AP) The governor of a remote American Indian community in New Mexico banned sales of a twice-monthly newspaper on the reservation, claiming the paper sensationalized coverage of a gruesome killing of a tribe member.

The story written by Robert Borden appeared in the Oct. 15 edition of the 1,000-circulation Jemez Thunder newspaper, and detailed the killing of Jemez Pueblo tribe member, Matthew Panana.

On Sept. 29, 22-year-old Lucas Toledo stabbed, beat, and kicked Panana, a fellow tribal member, before he disemboweled him, according to the FBI criminal complaint. Toledo faces a murder charge. 

Jemez Pueblo Gov. Joshua Madalena said the paper's failure to exercise restraint shows it is "out of touch with the community's perspective."

Madalena wrote a letter last week to the newspaper claiming that the article's tone, "the level of gruesome detail and the incredibly sensationalized manner in which it was published was appalling."

Borden has published the Jemez Thunder with his wife, Kathleen Wiegner, in a non-tribal community since 1995 and said he wasn't angry about the ban, but disheartened.  The community "is hurt by the fact that this occurred at all," he said. "I didn't hurt the community."

The tribe of about 2,500 is tucked away in New Mexico's mesas and red rocks, about an hour's drive northwest of Albuquerque, the country's largest city. Though the ban may have been considered a violation of freedom of speech elsewhere, the tribe was well within its rights as a sovereign government to forbid, as the governor did, the distribution of the newspaper at the tribal visitor's center and a convenience store, which were the only two locations where the paper was sold.

Tribal lands have their own separate governments and laws that are apart from the U.S. government. The federal government prosecutes crimes such as murder.

Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico, said, "The pueblos enjoy sovereign immunity where free speech and the First Amendment are concerned."

The tribe's traditions still remain heavily intact, including preservation of the Towa language that's unique to Jemez.

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