[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-NewMexico]: Jones Meyer on Ebright and Hendricks, 'Pueblo Sovereignty: Indian Land and Water in New Mexico and Texas'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Mon Nov 11 16:16:45 MST 2019

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From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Date: Mon, Nov 11, 2019 at 6:14 PM
Subject: H-Net Review [H-NewMexico]: Jones Meyer on Ebright and Hendricks,
'Pueblo Sovereignty: Indian Land and Water in New Mexico and Texas'
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Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>

Malcolm Ebright, Rick Hendricks.  Pueblo Sovereignty: Indian Land and
Water in New Mexico and Texas.  Norman  University of Oklahoma Press,
2019.  260 pp.  $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8061-6199-0.

Reviewed by Carter Jones Meyer (Ramapo College Of New Jersey)
Published on H-NewMexico (November, 2019)
Commissioned by Tomas Jaehn

Pueblo Sovereignty: Indian Land and Water in New Mexico and Texas

Since the seventeenth century silver-headed canes have served as
important symbols of Pueblo Indian sovereignty. They have been
bestowed at various times by three different New Mexico
governments--Spanish, Mexican, and American--but in each case, they
have been important reminders of the authority of Pueblo leaders to
preserve and protect their land, their water, and their way of life.
The Lincoln canes, however, presented to the Pueblos in 1863 by then
president Abraham Lincoln, hold a special significance. As Roy Bernal
of Taos Pueblo explained in congressional testimony in 1998, "The
Lincoln Cane ... symbolizes to all the world the perpetual
acknowledgement and commitment of the United States to honor our
sovereignty, protect our resources, and enhance our welfare" (p.
179). Still in the possession of the nineteen pueblos of New Mexico
and one in Texas, these canes are signifiers of an important pact:
they affirm the Pueblos' right to make their own decisions while
simultaneously committing the US government to _protecting_ that

The Pueblo canes and the sovereignty they symbolize help frame
Ebright's and Hendricks's new history of the New Mexico pueblos of
Pojoaque, Tesuque, Nambé, and Isleta, and Ysleta del Sur, located in
Texas. The project grew out of their earlier study, _Four Square
Leagues: Pueblo Indian Land in New Mexico_ (2014), which focused on
the origins of the Pueblo League as a standard of measurement for
Indian lands during Spanish occupation. In that book the authors also
explored efforts by the Pueblos since the late seventeenth century to
protect their lands from encroachment by non-Natives.  _Pueblo
Sovereignty_ picks up where _Four Square Leagues_ left off. It
explores in greater detail, and using new archival sources, the often
conflicting jurisdictions over Pueblo land and water rights from the
Spanish colonial era to the present. It is an ambitious undertaking
that could easily lead to well-worn conclusions of Native
victimization, given the significant setbacks the Pueblos have faced
over time, but as the authors rightfully argue, this is a story of
Native persistence and survival in the face of dispossession. _Pueblo
Sovereignty_, then, provides valuable new research on the challenges
faced by Pueblos over land and water rights, but it is perhaps just
as valuable for its exploration of the creative ways by which Pueblos
have asserted sovereignty as a means of preserving and protecting
their way of life.

The authors have chosen to focus on Pojoaque, Tesuque, Nambé,
Isleta, and Ysleta del Sur in Texas because of their shared
experiences in the colonial project. Each, for example, endured a
significant upheaval in its history, followed by a loss of
population, and sometimes dispersal and reestablishment of the
village. Each has also proved resilient in the face of challenges to
its land and culture, and perhaps most importantly, has seen a
revival of its traditions and practices. Taken together, the
experiences of these pueblos enable the authors to "compare how they
have historically used land and water, acquired land, sometimes sold
land, protected their existing land bases from encroachment, and used
advocates such as Indian agents and lawyers" (p, 3). To do this, the
authors combed an exhaustive array of original documents,
particularly from the Spanish and Mexican periods. Among these are
the campaign journals of don Diego de Vargas, which proved invaluable
for understanding Pueblo land holdings and ideas of sovereignty in
the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. For the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries they mined the papers of the
Court of Private Land Claims, which adjudicated the validity of land
grant claims in New Mexico, and the Pueblo Lands Board, which
reviewed claims of non-Indians who occupied Pueblo lands. Perhaps
most importantly, they incorporated Native voices wherever possible.
Among them is Isleta Pueblo leader Pablo Abeita, whose papers enable
us to see just how effectively Natives advocated for their
sovereignty in the early twentieth century.

The book opens with an informative, though fairly descriptive
overview of Spanish, Mexican, and US policies toward the Pueblos and
their lands. If there is a theme here it is that non-Native
encroachment on Native lands began early, even as colonial powers
like Spain initially sought to protect those lands by prohibiting
their sale and providing a non-Native "protector" for the Pueblos in
court. Those policies were inconsistently applied at best, and in the
Mexican period, were done away with altogether when Indians were
declared to be citizens. According to the authors, the Pueblos on
many occasions successfully defended their rights to their lands in
court, without lawyers. But there were other challenges during this
period, among them a law which provided for the privatization of
vacant public land as well as unneeded _ejidal _(communal land). This
put Pueblo lands at risk for non-Native encroachment, particularly at
places like Pecos and Pojoaque, which struggled with dwindling
populations. As the authors maintain, non-Native occupation of Pueblo
lands under the guise of being "vacant" went unchecked in this
period, and Hispano speculators looked for opportunities to acquire
large tracts of these lands for their own profit.

Following US occupation of New Mexico, old practices of encroachment
continued unabated, often because of land survey errors or legal
restrictions on Indian agents who ordinarily might have advocated for
the Pueblos. The Court of Private Land Claims, established by the US
government in 1891, aimed to apply a stricter standard for
adjudicating land grants, but it too could not adequately protect the
Pueblos' interests. In one case, for example, the court failed to
recognize an obviously forged set of papers for the Sierra Mosca land
grant, which included sacred lands of Nambé Pueblo. Institutional
failures such as these roused the Pueblos to action. They sent
delegations to Washington to meet face-to-face with federal officials
and advocated for stronger protections for their land and water.
Their persistence led the federal government to create the Pueblo
Lands Board in 1924. Its three members, none of whom were Native,
attempted to adjudicate titles to Pueblo land and finally resolve
long-standing confusion over who owned what. Sadly, the Pueblos
themselves were never consulted in these cases, thus perpetuating a
long history of paternalism in US Indian policy. When it completed
its deliberations in 1930, the board had awarded more than 36,000
acres of Pueblo grant land to non-Indians, much of it valuable
irrigated land.

The incidents of non-Native encroachment, dispossession, and, in some
cases, relocation are nowhere better explored than in the chapter on
Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. Ysleta's is a unique story in that it is the
only pueblo located in Texas. Following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680,
Tiwas and Piros who had lived in the area of Isleta Pueblo in New
Mexico were coerced into leaving their homeland with Hispano
refugees, eventually settling in the area of El Paso, where they were
ordered by Mexico City to live apart from the Hispano community.
Using deed books, boundary surveys, personal correspondence, and
official documents from such libraries as the Juarez Municipal
Archives, the authors carefully piece together a complicated story of
disputed boundaries, dislocation, and non-Native encroachment,
particularly in the period after Mexican independence. During this
time the Tiguas' protective status as Natives was removed and they
struggled to prove ownership of their land, the result of a lack of
official documentation. Following Texan independence, these troubles
only increased, as non-Natives, some posing as surveyors, swarmed
over Ysleta del Sur lands, intent on dispossessing the rightful
owners of their property. Even nature sometimes conspired against the
Tiguas, as when flooding in 1849 caused the Rio Grande to shift,
thereby separating them from some of their lands, which became
Mexican territory. Ysleta's brief period of incorporation as a town
in the 1870s and 1880s further eroded Tigua land holdings. Then, the
City of El Paso annexed the pueblo in 1955, despite opposition from
some Tiguas; for El Paso residents, the authors maintain, Ysleta
became just another part of the city, and a poor one at that. Yet,
the Tiguas managed to survive, and beginning in the 1980s, when their
tribal status was reinstated, they began to assert their sovereignty,
celebrating their annual feast day, performing traditional dances,
purchasing lands that were their traditional hunting grounds, and
establishing Speaking Rock Casino, despite not having state approval.
The casino remains a hotly contested legal issue, but at its heart,
it is not so much about gaming as it is a revitalized assertion of
Pueblo sovereignty.

Isleta, Ysleta del Sur's linguistic and cultural cousin in New
Mexico, suffered many of the same fates as Ysleta, but as the largest
pueblo in New Mexico, it has also successfully defended its
sovereignty through powerful advocates, most notably Pablo Abeita.
Ebright and Hendricks do a particularly good job of reconstructing
his voice through private correspondence, tribal papers,
congressional testimony, and newspaper accounts. In the early
twentieth century, when assimilation became the focus of US Indian
policy and assaults on Indian land and culture ran rampant, Abeita's
oppositional voice became all the more important in defending the
Pueblos. He and other advocates rose to prominence when they
challenged and overturned the 1922 Bursum Bill, which would have
recognized nearly all titles of non-Natives who had encroached on
Indian land in New Mexico. Abeita used this opportunity to demand
from the federal government support that had been long in coming, not
the least of which was ejection of trespassers from Indian lands and
accessing more water, something especially pressing for Isleta.
Perhaps just as important, Abeita on another occasion offered an
important reminder of how sovereignty must be understood, and the
canes given to the Pueblos by Lincoln symbolized that. Speaking to
the House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs in 1920, he said, "You came
to stay here ... [and now] we need your help which we did not 300
years ago; but now that you have gobbled up all our help ... it
remains for you to help us" (p. 168). He meant by this that the
Pueblos' tribal sovereignty had been eroded over time by non-Native
encroachment, and it was the responsibility of the US government to
restore it by protecting their land and water rights. Although in its
infancy in the 1920s, this concept of tribal sovereignty flourished
in the post-World War II era, and it continues to guide Pueblo
advocates today.

_Pueblo Sovereignty_ is an important book for scholars of Native
history, especially those working on the Southwest. It is
exhaustively researched and balanced in its analysis and
interpretation of the material. It would be helpful to see it
situated more squarely in the broader scholarship on settler
colonialism and Native dispossession, but this aside, it provides an
important foundation on which further research on Native land and
water issues in the Southwest can be built.

Citation: Carter Jones Meyer. Review of Ebright, Malcolm; Hendricks,
Rick, _Pueblo Sovereignty: Indian Land and Water in New Mexico and
Texas_. H-NewMexico, H-Net Reviews. November, 2019.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54010

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States

Best regards,

Andrew Stewart

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