A video posted to Instagram this week showed the tense moments surrounding an indigenous couple’s visit to sacred land in New Mexico after they were approached by law enforcement. While holding his small dog, Darrell House was tasered and arrested over walking off the trail in a national park.
The incident unfolded on December 27 in the Petroglyph National Monument. According to their website, the monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. “These images are a valuable record of cultural expression and hold profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans and for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers,” according to the description.
House knows this which is why he went on a hike that day with his girlfriend. They were there to pray to their ancestors.
“I come here to pray and speak to my Pueblo Ancestor relatives. Even though I’m Navajo and Oneida, I honor this land,” House said in a statement posted on Instagram along with the video.
According to house, when another group of hikers began approaching them, he and the woman with him decided to walk off the trail briefly. According to park rangers, however, walking off trail is against the rules which is why they were immediately approached by an officer with the National Park Service.
The officer was initially very cordial and says he was only there to give them a warning. However, he begins to ask for their IDs and names, meaning he was there to give more than a warning. Not wanting to end up in a police database for walking in a park, the couple gave the officer fake names before walking away.
“I didn’t feel I needed to identify myself for doing absolutely nothing wrong,” House explained.
Thinking they had done nothing wrong, the couple walked away and eventually made their way back to the trail. The entire time, the NPS officer was following close behind.
When House refused to be harassed any longer, the officer escalated force, threatening him with a taser. As House held his tiny dog “Geronimo,” the cop deployed it at both of them — sending the dog and House collapsing into the ground.
“Here, you will see a white man abuse his power…,” House wrote in the Instagram post. “This could have been a civil interaction. The law doesn’t work for the Indigenous.”
Authorities noted that there are closed off areas in the park because they contain sensitive archaeological treasures like rock carvings and other native artifacts. However, House brought up a good point.
“If anyone has the right to be off trail and wonder [sic] this land, it’s the NATIVE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY!” House’s Instagram post said.
Although authorities didn’t identify House by name, a “male” was cited “for being in a closed area off trail, providing false information and failing to comply with a lawful order,” the NPS statement said. “The female individual received citations for providing false information and being in a closed area off trail.”
Had this been private property, and the officer the one who owned it, he would have been justified in demanding House leave the property. However, House was on public property. What’s more, this “public property” belonged to House’s ancestors and was taken from them by the state.
Before it was Petroglyph National Monument it belonged to the ancestors of today’s Pueblo people. Puebloans have lived in the Rio Grande Valley since before 500 A.D. The Puebloans’ way of life was eventually made illegal by European Catholic settlers and their sacred ways, centuries-old traditions, and their land, were wiped away by colonialists.
The plight of the indigenous folks, as seen in the video below, continues to this day.