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NMSU alumnus, president of Mescalero Apache Tribe encourages youth education

MESCALERO – Arthur “Butch” Blazer knows the benefits of a college education for an individual and for a tribe.

Man in black hat and jacket standing in front of sign
Arthur “Butch” Blazer, president of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, plans to work with New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Indian Resource Development Program to encourage youth to attend college. (Courtesy photo)

As a graduate of New Mexico State University, the newly elected president of the Mescalero Apache Tribe is encouraging the youth of his tribe to continue their education after high school.

“I want to explore opportunities that will encourage more of our students interested in attending New Mexico State University,” he said. “We’d like to get more students into areas of learning where they can return to the reservation and serve the needs of our people.”

As a tribal member, Blazer returned to the reservation after receiving a bachelor’s degree in range management from NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences in 1975.

“I feel very fortunate to have been offered a position on my Mescalero Apache Reservation in the wildfire program after graduation,” said the College of ACES 2016 Distinguished Alumni. “It was an entry into federal service.”

Forty-two years later, Blazer returned to his native lands after a career that took him up the ranks of government agencies through the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs as range management specialist, natural resource manager and agency superintendent.

Blazer was appointed by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to serve as the first Native American New Mexico state forester for eight years; and, ultimately was appointed by President Barack Obama to the position of deputy under secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources and the Environment where he provided oversight to the U.S. Forest Service.

Blazer also served on the Mescalero Apache Tribal Council for two consecutive terms, was the co-founder of the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society, and served on both the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors and Alumni Association International Board of Directors.

His service to his community was recognized when he was presented the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteerism, signed by President Obama in June 2016.

On Jan. 12, Blazer was elected by the Mescalero people to serve as president of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. In his new role, he wants to team up with his alma mater and explore ways to develop opportunities for his tribe’s young people.

“When many of us – as Native American students – entered college, it was somewhat of a culture shock, and at times it was the first time for some to have left the reservation,” Blazer said. “That shock was positively tempered by teachers and other faculty who recognized we needed that extra effort to feel welcome. As a result, we had a very productive educational experience at NMSU.”

He would like to extend that experience to today’s youth.

Soon after Rolando Flores joined NMSU as the dean of the College of ACES in September 2016, the two men had the opportunity to meet and quickly found common interests and began to communicate their desire to work together.

“Our connection has come together very well, both from a personal standpoint and a professional understanding of connecting the university with the needs at Mescalero and determining how the university and the Mescalero Apache Tribe can come together to form a mutually beneficial relationship,” Blazer said.

Both Flores and Blazer are committed to having their respective leadership meet and discuss the various ways NMSU can help the tribe, not just with encouraging youth to further their education, but also with addressing and improving agricultural and natural resource issues.

The College of ACES is working with New Mexico’s Native American tribes and pueblos to form an advisory committee for the Indian Resources Development Program, as mandated in the Indian Resources Development Act. The purpose of the act is for NMSU to assist the tribes to promote their economic self-sufficiency through education of youth in agriculture, natural resource management, recreation and business opportunities.

“This ties into the mission of a large land-grant university,” Blazer said. “I feel there is a natural connection that we need to re-awaken and figure out how to take full advantage of it for the benefit of the university and the tribe.”