Our hearts are with Jacob, his family, and the Indigenous Peoples of New Mexico

October 3rd, 2023


Sabrina Chapa [email protected]

Anthony Diaz [email protected]

Statement from Family of Indigenous Activist, Jacob Johns, Shot Last Week at Peaceful Prayer Circle

For generations, Indigenous Peoples have faced harm, death, and systemic oppression. Last week’s premeditated shooting is just another historical event in a series of systemic injustices in Indigenous history. This intentional premeditated act of violence was perpetrated against a peaceful prayer camp located at the proposed site for the reinstallation of the Oñate statue. This draws attention to the lengthy history of injustices against Indigenous Peoples by dehumanizing systems and divisive ideologies the community was protesting.

The family wishes to keep attention on a narrative of unity, not instead of division. It is essential to center the perspectives of all those involved in the spiritual event and those impacted from the violence. The physical, mental, and emotional trauma this has caused to Jacob will be lifelong. Jacob is not the only victim here. The physical trauma was with Jacob but there are other emotional traumas that were inflicted on the full community including the women, children and elders that were present that day and their stories must be told. 

At the foremost, it is essential that this incident is not described as a clash between protestors. Indigenous community members were conducting a peaceful and spiritual assembly when they were attacked and made victims of an attempted mass murder. It is only because the shooter’s gun jammed that Malaya Peixinho and others were not also injured or worse. (For a more detailed account of the incident, please see this press release from The Red Nation.)

Second: While police were present earlier in the day and had previously escorted the shooter away for disruptive behavior, they later permitted the shooter to return and then left, abandoning peaceful demonstrators despite the clear threat. LaVerne McGrath, Jacob’s mother, hopes that this tragedy can lead to systemic changes in which threats to Indigenous Peoples and other historically oppressed peoples are not downplayed.

Third: The shooter made the point to introduce himself to members of the media and requested that he was photographed and filmed. Coverage that provides the notoriety he clearly sought exacerbates the harm he has perpetrated on Jacob and his loved ones, the Tewa community and all Black, Indigenous and People of Color for whom racial violence creates ongoing trauma.

Though he remains in jail today, our work must continue to ensure that the shooter accounts for his crimes in the justice system. New Mexico’s justice system has an opportunity to send a message now that violence targeting BIPOC people will not go without firm consequence. The state of New Mexico has a chance to ensure the safety of all residents’ right to celebrate, pray, protest, and mourn by supporting systemic change that centers community safety and well-being.  The family is asking for full accountability to set precedence on this evil act to ensure that we stop white supremacy in all its forms and ensure community safety.

Jacob Johns’ Family’s Demands

  • To the District Court Judge: Approve the motion to prevent the shooter’s release and instead keep him in pre-trial custody, as he poses a significant risk to our community and all communities.
  • To the Arriba County Prosecutor and First Judicial District Attorney: Add federal hate crime to the list of charges, and to seek the maximum sentence. This was a racially and culturally motivated hate crime and must be treated as such.
  • To the public: Continue to support the family and their monetary needs: 
  • To Rio Arriba County Officials and the State of New Mexico: Assure the Oñate statue is not reinstalled, and that all monuments and statues that glorify or celebrate genocide are taken down.  
  • To the media: Stop showing the pictures and videos of the shooter which can encourage similar violence and instead show the pictures and videos of the reality of the harm that was done to Jacob John’s and his family. (Link to photos provided by the family)


September 28

USCAN Statement 1

We were heartbroken to learn that one of our beloved members and climate warrior Jacob Johns was the victim of a violent, white supremacist shooting during a peaceful protest in Tewa Territory (Española, NM) against resurrection of a statue of conquistador Juan de Oñate. Jacob was flown to a hospital in Albuquerque, where he is in stable condition. Our hearts are with Jacob, his family, and the Indigenous Peoples of New Mexico who endure ongoing assaults on their bodies and lands. USCAN is staying close to the situation and will issue a formal statement, and ways to stand in solidarity, when we have more information. In the meantime, please keep Jacob and his family in your best thoughts and prayers.  You may reach out to [email protected] with any questions.

September 29

USCAN Statement 2

On September 28, during a peaceful prayer ceremony to oppose the resurrection of a statue of  conquistador Juan de Oñate on Tewa Territory, Española, New Mexico, one of our beloved climate warriors , Jacob Johns (Backbone Campaign) became the victim of a violent, racist shooting. Prior to the shooting, the gunman was among a group of MAGA hat-wearing folks that opposed the peaceful prayer rally and began disrupting the ceremonies underway.  According to witnesses, he was asked by police to leave the area, but was then permitted to return under the guise of protecting free speech.  He continued to disrupt.  As a couple of participants stepped in to deescalate the situation, the gunman shot Jacob in the torso.  The gunman was apprehended and witnesses were interviewed by local police and members of the FBI. 

Today, we sit in the aftermath of this racist act of violence against a Hopi and Akimel O'odham father, artist, and community builder who showed up to the prayer rally in solidarity with kin from The Red Nations and the Three Sisters Collective.  Though stable, Jacob is not completely out of the woods and family and supporters continue prayers for his healing and full recovery. Friends have been with him through his surgeries, and his family just arrived to see him. 

More fundamentally, this is a hate crime.  This agitator didn’t merely target Jacob, but sought to disrupt a gathering in which dozens of Indigenous Peoples of New Mexico gathered together to offer prayers that a symbol of colonial genocide wouldn’t be permitted to be installed.  This was an attack on Indigenous People’s rights to gather peacefully; an attack on the right to not have a brutalizer of their ancestors canonized in such a public way; and an effort to silence the voices of many Indigenous Peoples across time and space to advocate for their lives. 

USCAN staff and members were convening nearby in New Mexico and a few USCAN members accompanied Jacob to the action to learn more and display solidarity.  


Stay tuned for opportunities to gather with USCAN members and more ways to support Jacob, his family, and our partners in New Mexico to make sure that this injustice is not ignored by local authorities.

Also, please let us know if you have any experience or contacts with experience countering racist and white supremacist violence. We are using the Backfire Basics as a framework for responding publicly and making sure Jacob has all the support he needs. Although this is not violence from the state, it is violence that was fomented by the state and we do not know yet if local authorities will take this crime seriously without our intervention. 

Also, we ask that you…

  • Help cover medical bills of Jacob by donating to Go Fund Me and sharing it with with others
  • If you have connections to government leaders in the US, outside the US, or at the UN please ask them to post on social media with the hashtags #SolidarityWithJacob 
  • Donate to Red Media to nourish, sustain and support Indigenous Peoples Movements

And demand that…

  • Federal hate crime charges be filed against the shooter
  • Local government officials refrain from installing a symbol of historical violence 
  • Government officials in New Mexico and federally commit to not resurrecting the statue of conquistador Juan de Oñate

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