Santa Fe City Council members question Native American liaison role
City councilors on Wednesday expressed skepticism about the job title and purpose of the city of Santa Fe’s Native American liaison, a $48,000-a-year position.
Councilor Renee Villarreal said the contract for Rima Krisst, who has served as the liaison since the position was created in 2016, describes a role that doesn’t involve truly cultivating relationships between the city and the pueblos north of Santa Fe.
“In my mind, a Native American liaison is someone who has government-to-government relationships and is Native American,” Villarreal said. “If you look at the [contract], it’s very much focused on tourism and building connections promoting tourism with Native American partners.”
Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler zeroed in on the contract stipulation that Krisst, who also provides “photography and videography” services, will provide “monthly activity reports” to Randy Randall, the executive director of Tourism Santa Fe. Vigil Coppler asked where those were.
Randall said monthly reports had been “waived” over the last year, because he speaks with Krisst so frequently as to make them “redundant,” which did not please Vigil Coppler.
“I really don’t know what the purpose, other than photography, is,” she said. “We went a whole year of paying a contractor, and we have no reports. I’m a little bit befuddled, and I’ll leave it at that.”
The liaison contract says the role is “for the purpose of promoting a healthy and coordinated relationship for the benefit of tourism in Santa Fe and the corresponding Native American communities,” as well as integrating Native art and culture “into the city’s overall tourism offering” and serving as a point of contact for tribes in support of regional tourism. Krisst’s photography work is separate from the tribal liaison work.
Reached by phone Wednesday night, Krisst agreed that hers is “not a political liaison role.”
“I work with the people at the pueblos who are knowledgeable about tourism,” she said. “And as it’s appropriate I help share information about what is available for visitors to Santa Fe and locals to go see.”
“I care deeply about my relationships with the tribes and the work I do,” she added.
“The idea was to be more proactive and reach out to the tribes,” Randall said. “It’s a soft product we get in return. Through this, we’ve been able to work with [the pueblos] on many more things we’ve been able to make available to our tourists when they come.”
Councilors, after a lengthy discussion, voted to postpone the contract extension until they could obtain activity reports and to reconfigure the contract title to better capture the tourism-centric nature of the job.
Councilor Peter Ives defended Krisst’s work, saying he had attended tribal feast days with her. “I have been continually impressed with the depth of her knowledge of that whole cycle all the pueblos go through as well as her knowledge of individual tribal members in each one of those pueblos,” Ives said. “I think she actually has performed significant service as a liaison to the native community.”
Villarreal shot back at Ives: “It has nothing to do with the individual. It has everything to do with the contracts. You may have experienced those accomplishments personally, but not all of us have. Not all of us have been invited to those feast days.”
“I actually think she’s done a good job — I just want [the contract] to be reflective of what she’s doing,” Villarreal added.
Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta agreed, highlighting that Krisst has not been involved in ongoing discussions about the increasingly contentious annual re-enactment of the Entrada.
“A Native American liaison means a lot more than what I’m hearing,” he said.