Rooster Pull Publicized at Pocahontas

Illustration by Jazelle Lieske
"Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society. Conversely, cruelty, whether it is directed against human beings or against animals, is not the exclusive province of any one culture or community of people. Racism, economic deprivation, dog fighting and cockfighting, bullfighting and rodeos are cut from the same fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves."
--Cesar E. Chavez
President, United Farm Workers
of America, letter, Dec. 26, 1990

UPC activists in seven major U.S. cities leafleted moviegoers on the opening night of Walt Disney's Pocahontas on June 23rd. The leafleting targeted a violent dismemberment sport which is still being held by certain Native American pueblos in New Mexico, in which a live rooster is buried in dirt or hung from a tree and used as a club and torn to pieces by men on horses. Activists urged Pocahontas patrons to mail or fax the leaflet coupon to the All Indian Pueblo Council imploring them to ban the rooster pull and replace it with a nonviolent entertainment that accords with the spirit of respect for life advocated in Pocahontas. Each precious creature, Pocahontas sings, has "a life, a spirit, and a name."

The following day, Saturday June 24, the Zia Pueblo held a rooster pull, which was reported in the Santa Fe New Mexican 6/25: "Late in the afternoon Saturday--San Juan feast day, a traditional rooster pull day--five horsemen duked it out with a rooster, just as Zia Pueblo Gov. Stanley Pino has said pueblo residents have been doing for generations. In the middle of the road leading to the mesa-top center of Zia--just off N.M. 44 northwest of Bernalillo--rooster pull participants tugged at the bird from atop their mounts. When one rider gained control of the rooster for a moment or two, he used the bird to whack his opponents. Just about every rider seemed to get in a few licks.

"From a short distance away, the sport appeared to be lacking in gore--no spouts or splashes of blood. A few feathers flew as the riders delivered blows with the rooster-as-weapon. But eventually the game ended with one rider having the largest part of the rooster, with the featherless, headless neck attached. And after that, the feast day continued with other events..."

Spurred by the Pocahontas leafleting, The New York Times and the Associated Press published articles on June 24 about the rooster pull, which Zia Gov. Pino compared to a rodeo and other benighted traditions: "It's something we've been doing for I don't know how long, by our fathers and their fathers and their grandfathers before them." While noting "the kids aren't really into it anymore," he told reporters that his pueblo will continue doing rooster pulls for spite, and blame their meanness on other people: "Pino said the outcry against rooster pulls has strengthened the resolve among Zias to keep the tradition going ... at a time when the sport seemed ready to fade away because of indifference."

At the last minute, Gov. Pino backed out of a 1-hour CBS Radio Network debate with UPC President Karen Davis on the nationally syndicated Gil Gross Show on July 7. He was replaced by New Mexico state historian Robert Torrez who repetitively stated that the pueblos have a right to do as they please--with roosters (not with him). For instance, at the Santa Ana pueblo a bunch of guys sit around on horses laughing and beating each other over the head with three or four roosters.

Encouragingly, the NM Dept of Tourism announced in June it had "decided to remove any listings of rooster pulls from all future publications of the New Mexico Vacation Guide" and that "New Mexico will not condone such activities."

What Can I Do?

Contact the pueblos that definitely held rooster pulls this past summer (1995) and respectfully but firmly tell them that their continuation of this cruelty will eventually hurt their pueblo. Urge these pueblos, and the All Indian Pueblo Council, to adopt a policy which bans the Rooster Pull and ask that the Native American Pueblos adhere to standards of fairness and respect in the treatment of other creatures.

  • Write, phone, fax:
    Chairman Harry Early, All Indian Pueblo Council, 3939 San Pedro Drive, NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110 (ph: 505/881-1992; fax: 505/883-7682).

  • Write:
    Pueblo of Acoma
    P.O. Box 309
    Acomita, NM 87034
    Attn: Gov. Ronald Shitiva

    Pueblo of Zia
    135 Capital Square Drive
    San Ysidro, NM 87053
    Attn: Gov. Stanley Pino

    Pueblo of Santo Domingo
    P.O. Box 99
    Santo Domingo, NM 87052
    Attn: Gov. Bennie Starr

    Pueblo of Santa Ana
    2 Dove Road
    Bernalillo, NM 87004
    Attn: Gov. Ernest J. Lujan

  • Thank for discontinuing rooster pulls:
    Pueblo of Jemez
    P.O. Box 100
    Jemez Pueblo, NM 87024
    Attn: Gov. Paul Chinana

    Pueblo of Laguna
    P.O. Box 194
    Old Laguna, NM 87026
    Attn: Gov. Roland Johnson

  • Not sure of position:
    Pueblo of Isleta
    P.O. Box 1270
    Isleta, NM 87022
    Attn: Gov. Alvino Lucero

  • Write:
    Reverend Richard Olona, Chancellor, Archdiocese of Santa Fe, 4000 St. Joseph Place, NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120. Quoted in the Albuquerque Journal, he said that although "the church believes all God's creatures should be treated with respect and not abused," he is neutral on the rooster pull and "would not consider it abuse in that context" of traditional celebration. Please ask him to embrace the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi by denouncing the rooster pulls for what they are: cruelty and unkindness to God's creatures.

UPC would like to thank the following people for successfully organizing the leafleting at the opening of Pocahontas: Bill Dollinger, Washington DC; Lisa Jennings, Albuquerque, NM; Pam Teisler and Barbara Stagno, NYC; Simon Oswitch, Los Angeles; Kari Ofstedahl, San Francisco; Susan Koenker, Chicago; Ron Wright, St. Petersburg, FL. UPC is grateful to Sangre de Cristo Animal Protection, Inc. for their vigorous state-wide campaign in New Mexico and invaluable national assistance to stop the rooster pull.