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Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez: ‘We’re all shook up’
‘We’re all shook up’: Violence mars inter-tribal gathering in New Mexico
Friday, August 5, 2022

The 100th anniversary of the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial in New Mexico was marred by violence after a car drove into the crowd and parade, causing injuries and wreaking havoc on the opening day of the highly-anticipated event.

Dramatic footage posted online shows the car heading straight toward a contingent that included women and children from the Navajo Nation. The vehicle, which appears to have been traveling at a high speed, came within striking distance of First Lady Phefelia Nez, the wife of President Jonathan Nez, who also was nearby.

“Get out of the way!” a police officer can be heard yelling as Nez and other parade marchers, including representatives of Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives, ran for safety from the quickly approaching car.

“Get out of the way!” the officer yelled a second time, rushing toward the participants in order to help them avoid being hit.

Another video shows the gold-colored vehicle continuing to drive head-on into the parade route in downtown Gallup. A group of children who were hoop dancing on the street got out of the way just in time as the car sped down Coal Avenue in the Arts and Cultural District part of town.

Additional footage shows law enforcement authorities eventually catching up to the car — but the driver attempts to flee the scene. A handful of bystanders, visibly angered and upset by the dangerous situation, can be seen attempting to stop the vehicle before officers were able to apprehend the driver and put an end to the violence.

“The driver is in custody,” the New Mexico State Police said in a short statement later on Thursday evening.

According to the statement, “multiple people” — including two officers from the Gallup Police Department — were injured. They were being treated on the scene, the state authorities said.

At least two other people can be seen in the vehicle, based on videos and photos of the incident. A total of “three occupants have been detained,” the city of Gallup later said in a statement.

But initial accounts of gunfire appear to have been unfounded. “There have been reports of shots fired but nothing has been confirmed at this time,” the statement read.

In a video update from Gallup, President Jonathan confirmed that his contingent came face-to-face with danger. He was seen shaking hands with well-wishers shortly before the vehicle barreled toward the group.

“We were in the path of the vehicle,” Nez said in the video.

“It came straight towards us, the vehicle,” Nez added.

Nez noted that many people from the Navajo Nation were in town for the start of the 10-day Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial. The incident occurred during the first of two parades that are on the schedule for the centennial celebration.

“We’re all shook up,” Nez said. “You would see this on television. You would think it will never happen here.”

“I’m sorry to say, it happened here in Gallup, New Mexico,” he said.

Nez credited police officers in Gallup with helping keep people safe by warning them about the dangerous vehicle. No one from his group, which included members of the Navajo Nation Council, were struck by the car, he said.

“Our team members are okay,” said Nez, who is running for re-election this year. “A lot of the folks that were in the straightaway, they’re all okay.”

But Nez said the violence has caused emotional distress to those who were present. He asked relatives and loved ones to check in on attendees as they deal with mental health and other wellness issues.

“I know there’s a lot of family members that are shook up and scared,” Nez said. “I just ask that if you know of someone that was at the Gallup Ceremonial, just give them a call. Comfort them, pray with them.”

Amber Kanazbah Crotty, a delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, also was in the direct path of the vehicle. She was still visibly shaken by the time she posted her own video update on Thursday evening.

“We’re okay,” Crotty said, taking several seconds to regain her composure after starting her livestream. “Everyone who was with us was okay, that we know of, at the Gallup Ceremonial parade.”

Posted by Amber Kanazbah Crotty on Thursday, August 4, 2022
Amber Kanazbah Crotty: Livestream from Gallup, New Mexico

Crotty was walking with a Rock Your Mocs group and Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives (MMDR) families on what she described as a “beautiful night.” She said the contingent was passing out traditional Navajo hair ties and thanking bystanders for watching the parade.

“And right when we came out of that curve, we just heard: ‘Everyone move, get out of the, get out of the way,'” Crotty recalled. “And someone pushed us out of danger.”

“And right when they did that, that vehicle passed by us,” Crotty said in offering an eyewitness account of the incident.

“And that man had no compassion in his heart,” she said of the person behind the wheel of the car. “[He] sped up.”

Crotty fought back tears as she confirmed footage which showed parade participants and bystanders attempting to intervene and stop the car from causing further harm to the crowd.

“I know one of our MMDR sisters was so mad, she tried to stop him,” Crotty said. “She’s okay. And everybody’s asking how we’re doing and, and we’re just doing the best we can.”

At this point in the livestream, an older man approached Crotty. Though he remained out of sight of the camera, she referred to him respectfully using the Navajo word for uncle.

“We saw him,” Crotty said of the driver. “He wouldn’t stop.”

“I wanna see him, I wanna see him,” the older man said in reference to the driver.

“We’re all mad,” she responded.

“I’m reminding myself, we did the best we could,” Crotty said later in the livestream. “I’m reminding myself that everyone that I saw was okay. But mentally we’re going to need to come together and have some healing.”

Nearly half of the population in Gallup is Native American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of the residents hail from the Navajo Nation, whose reservation and trust lands surround the city. Others come from the Pueblo of Zuni, whose northern border is less than 30 miles south of the city.

“I hope all our people that attended the parade are safe,” Zuni Governor Val Panteah wrote on social media late Thursday night. “Please check on loved ones who may have been impacted by the incident. If you need help in dealing with the trauma, please call the hospital or call 911. I ask our community to pray that everyone is safe.”

Buu Nygren, a Navajo Nation presidential candidate, took part in the parade at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial. Earlier in the evening, he had posted a short clip on social media of participants lining up for the event.

“Jasmine and I are praying for the safety of everyone who participated in the Night Parade,” Nygren said in a post later in the night. Violence is never a solution. Unfortunately, we were all affected tonight and it will take time to understand what happened and why. Please be safe tonight and remember to check in on each other and to be mindful of our young ones and those we love.”

Nathaniel “Nate” Brown, another delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, took part in the parade as well. A photo he shared on social media depicted the moments after the vehicle ripped through the crowd in front of the historic El Morro Theater on Coal Avenue. The banner that had been carried by President Nez’s group can be seen on the street, ripped apart.

“As far as I know myself and many others around us of course are traumatized but above all we’re gonna do our prayers,” Brown wrote in the post. “Everyone please take care of yourselves and let’s just make our prayers that much stronger.”

Both Crotty and Brown urged people to stay away from downtown Gallup, not just for their safety, but to ensure the investigation into the incident can be carried out properly. A second parade that covers the same route is set to take place on the morning of August 13, though event organizers had not yet offered any updates to the schedule as of midnight on Friday.

The celebration includes a powwow, rodeo and art show that take place at Red Rock Park, located about 10 miles west of downtown Gallup. A 5K Run/Walk on Saturday is set for Ellis Tanner Trading Company, a couple of miles from the downtown area.

The film festival, though, has been scheduled to take place at the El Morro Theater on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The Ceremonial Queen Pageant is also supposed to be held at the venue.

“The incident in Gallup, New Mexico, has impacted many families and relatives attending the night parade for the 100th Annual Intertribal Ceremonial,” Speaker Seth Damon of the Navajo Nation Council said in a statement. “The Navajo Nation stands with resilience against any acts of violence and sends prayers of protection to those affected. This was a traumatic and triggering event for many, especially for our youth, elders, and our veterans who acted quickly.”

“Please contact your family members tonight and make sure everyone is safe,” Damon continued. “Hug your children tighter knowing they are okay.”

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