This November, New Mexicans are faced with a crucial decision when voting on constitutional Amendment No. 1. The journey to direct democracy has been long and difficult, but we now have an unprecedented opportunity for the people of our state — inclusive of tribal communities — to access the second wealthiest permanent fund in this nation.

If approved, the amendment will allow us to leverage this fund as a permanent revenue source for early childhood education and a resource for all of our children to succeed in their education while honoring their culture and identity. Part of the long-term vision for New Mexico’s early childhood education system was realized when the state established the Early Childhood Education and Care Department.

Tribal leaders were vocal about the need to institutionalize the input of the tribes within the new department and were instrumental in the establishment of the position of assistant secretary for Native American Early Childhood Education and Care. Government-to-government collaboration such as this is especially necessary and meaningful as we near the 150th anniversary of the first Indian education policy that was intentionally designed to be a tool of forced cultural assimilation by removing Native American children from their families, languages and cultures.

Regis Pecos is the former governor of Cochiti Pueblo. He served 22 years as a senior adviser in the Legislature, including 12 years as chief of staff to the late speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Ben Luján. He is the co-founder and co-director of Leadership Institute, an Indigenous Think Tank now in its 26th year.

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