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Four Square Leagues

Pueblo Indian Land in New Mexico

Malcolm Ebright

Publication Year: 2014

This long-awaited book is the most detailed and up-to-date account of the complex history of Pueblo Indian land in New Mexico, beginning in the late seventeenth century and continuing to the present day. The authors have scoured documents and legal decisions to trace the rise of the mysterious Pueblo League between 1700 and 1821 as the basis of Pueblo land under Spanish rule. They have also provided a detailed analysis of Pueblo lands after 1821 to determine how the Pueblos and their non-Indian neighbors reacted to the change from Spanish to Mexican and then to U.S. sovereignty.

Characterized by success stories of protection of Pueblo land as well as by centuries of encroachment by non-American Indians on Pueblo lands and resources, this is a uniquely New Mexican history that also reflects issues of indigenous land tenure that vex contested territories all over the world.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-xii

When legal historian G. Emlen Hall assessed the need for more scholarship about Pueblo legal history back in the late 1980s he delineated four major areas related to the subject of Pueblo Indian land in New Mexico that merited additional “detailed work,” given how little was known about the topic. This book addresses all four points and goes beyond...

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pp. 1-10

The chapters that follow focus on Pueblo Indian land in New Mexico, exploring its history from the late seventeenth century to the present. To provide some context for this long period of history, it is useful to examine briefly the nature of land tenure before the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. That story began when Governor Juan de Oñate (1598–1610) took possession of New...

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1. The Pueblo League in New Mexico, 1692–1846

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pp. 11-48

With the notable exception of the 1748 grant for the resettlement of Sandia Pueblo, no documentary evidence has surfaced to support the assertion that the primary landholdings of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico during the more than two centuries of Spanish rule were based on written land grants. Instead, the Pueblo Indians’...

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2. Santa Ana Pueblo’s Ranchiit’u Land Purchases

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pp. 49-88

After the reconquest in 1692–1693, some of the pueblos, particularly Santa Ana, reached an accommodation with local Hispanos that enabled them to participate actively in the Spanish system of real property titles and to make it work for them. Santa Ana, along with Zia and San Felipe, allied themselves with Vargas on his return to New Mexico and remained...

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3. Picuris Pueblo: Spanish Encroachment and Pueblo Resurgence

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pp. 89-122

Picuris, located on the western slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Taos County, was the largest northern pueblo at the time of Spanish contact, with a population of about two thousand Indians. Juan de Oñate visited what he called “the great pueblo” of Picuris on 13 July 1598, soon after arriving in New Mexico. The thirteenth of July was the feast...

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4. Sandia Pueblo

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pp. 123-148

In 1983 Sandia and its history became front-page news when the pueblo requested a resurvey of its 1748 grant, especially the eastern boundary, which was the crest of Sandia Peak. This soon became a high-stakes confrontation involving the U.S. Forest Service, Sandia, private landholders on the slope of the mountain, and other pueblos supporting Sandia’s claim. The ensuing...

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5. Santa Clara Pueblo and Its Struggle to Protect Santa Clara Canyon

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pp. 149-168

With an estimated current membership of over one thousand, Santa Clara is one of the largest of the six northern Tewa-speaking pueblos.1 Historically, its population has varied—its low point was 134 in 1790 just after a smallpox epidemic killed more than 500 Indians in the Santa Clara and San Juan vicinity, and its high point was 1,204 in 1974, according...

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6. Cochiti Pueblo

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pp. 169-188

Cochiti is the northernmost Keresan-speaking pueblo in New Mexico.1 Many Cochiti tribal members believe that the tribe lived at Tyuonyi, the great ruin on the floor of Frijoles Canyon in Bandelier National Monument, before it moved to its current location, which it did before the arrival of the Spaniards. Not all Spanish expeditions mention Cochiti. In 1581...

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7. Jemez Pueblo

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pp. 189-204

According to Jemez oral history as historian Joe Sando recounted it, the Towa-speaking people of Jemez originated at Wá˙vɨnatɨ˙tá (also Hua-na-tota), a lake in the north, which is said to be Stone Lake on the Jicarilla Apache reservation, south of Dulce, New Mexico. By 1300 CE they were living in the mountains and on the mesas above the present-day village...

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8. The Surveyor General and the Cruzate Grants

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pp. 205-236

The core landholdings of nine New Mexico pueblos—Picuris, San Juan (Ohkay Owingeh), Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Jemez, Zia, Acoma, and Zuni—are based on documents dated 20 or 25 September 1689, purporting to be grants to those pueblos from Governor Domingo Jironza Pétriz de Cruzate...

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9. The Pueblos Come Under U.S. Rule

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pp. 237-266

In the course of more than two centuries of Spanish rule, the Pueblos enjoyed some benefits from the special status the Hispanos accorded them. The institution of protector of the Indians, the fairly consistent respect shown to the Pueblo league, at least in theory, and the occasional willingness to rule against conflicting non-Indian claims that infringed on Pueblo lands...

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10. The Pueblo Lands Board

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pp. 267-292

When special attorney for the Pueblos Richard Hanna began filing ejectment actions in federal court against non-Indians residing on Pueblo lands in 1919, the issue of non-Indian trespass on Pueblo lands was finally brought into full focus. An understanding of the interplay of litigation, legislative activity, administrative intrigue, and pressure-group lobbying...

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11. Taos Pueblo and the Return of Blue Lake

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pp. 293-320

Blue Lake, formed in a glacial cirque of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at over 11,000 feet, sits in natural grandeur behind Taos Pueblo. The most sacred of Taos’s natural shrines, it is considered to be the source of the pueblo’s life, both spiritually as the place of emergence of the pueblo and literally as the principal source of the Rio Pueblo, which provides irrigation...

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pp. 321-326

Across much of the United States, the history of Indian land tenure is a sad tale of treaties broken, homelands lost, and forced migration to federally designated reservations far from the sacred sites of the ancestral homelands of the tribes, the places sung about and recounted in myths and origin stories. In New Mexico, the story of Pueblo land tenure was...

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pp. 327-328

An earlier version of chapter 1 appeared in volume 4 of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Archives (El Paso, TX: Sundance Press, 2001). Funding for the research and writing of chapters 5, 6, and 7 was provided by grants from the New Mexico Historical Records Advisory Board.
Malcolm is grateful for the research and word-processing assistance...

Appendix 1: Confirmed Pueblo Grants

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pp. 329-330

Appendix 2: Documents Relating to the New Mexico Pueblo League

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pp. 331-336


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pp. 337-338


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pp. 339-420


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pp. 421-422

Works Cited

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pp. 423-440


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pp. 441-452

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826354730
E-ISBN-10: 0826354734
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826354723

Page Count: 496
Publication Year: 2014