Chapter XXII. Of the Native Government of the Pueblos, and Their Political Status under Ours


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TWENTY-SIX little republics in the bosom of our great republic—that, in a phrase, is the political case of the Pueblo communities. Each is an independent political entity, and while, of course, the authority of the United States is over them all and acknowledged by all, each prefers to manage its own affairs without reference to our Government or to one another. There is, however, no occasion for any one else—even the United States—to interfere; for the Pueblo governmental method is a good one for Pueblos, and life and property under it are as safe as anywhere in the land.

The Pueblo form of government is essentially republican, but conjoined with a theocracy, the latter under the headship of the Cacique, or Chief Priest. People who have much to do with


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Pueblo authorities are inclined to the view that the Cacique is the real power behind the throne; or to put it in the picturesque figure of a Government official in Santa Fé, that "the old man holds the trump card in every deal, and the bunch goes along." While this may be so in the case of masterful minds in Caciques, as in the "bosses" of our own political system, the Cacique is by no means officially a dictator. He is the spiritual care-taker of the community and the keeper of its traditions. He is supposed to be able to reveal the mind of the Powers Above, and in order to keep his spiritual perceptions keen, he fasts and undergoes mortification of the flesh on occasion for the good of the people. His term of office is for life, and he educates an understudy to succeed him. Upon the death of the Cacique, there is usually a decent interregnum of a year or more before the new incumbent enters upon his duties.

The executive department of the government consists of a governor, a lieutenant-governor (or teniente), a war-captain, an alguacil (or sheriff), and a few other officials—all elected annually by the voice of the people. The officials are


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assisted in their administration by a permanent council of old men or junta de principales—in some pueblos these being the ex-governors. With the Pueblos, the elective office does not dignify the man, as with us; an elected official is a public servant, in fact, and as such deserves no particular reverence. This was a surprise to the monarchical Spanish pioneers, who on one occasion captured the war-captain of a pueblo and held him as hostage, thinking so great an official a noteworthy prize; but he was not—in the Indian view he was just one man. So too, on our first visit to Taos, when we asked to see the Governor, who was not in his house, a little child was unceremoniously despatched to fetch him, and in quick time he came without any flourish of trumpets whatsoever. Sancta simplicitas, indeed.

The lands of each pueblo are held in common for all the people. Every head of a family makes application for what he needs to till, and this is set aside to him while he works it. Failure to use it for a certain period causes it to revert to the pueblo, to be parcelled out to a new applicant. What each man raises is his own, to be carried


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home to his wife; and when beneath her roof, it is hers in trust for the family. It is well to bear this in mind, if you wish to make a present of eatables to a Pueblo man. Once at a certain pueblo, thinking to make a little acknowledgment to a man who had befriended us, we carried a basket of fruit for him to his home. We found him industriously at work by his fireside and handed him the fruit with a suitable speech. He took it, rather sheepishly, we thought, gave it a hungry look, and passed it on to his wife, who was standing confidently by and who promptly walked off with it. The public utilities of the pueblo—the outdoor ovens, the corrals for animals, the grazing lands, the wells, and waters—are enjoyed in common; but every family dwells strictly by itself in its own apartments, and lives of its own industry, independently of others. Knowing, from past experience, of the possibility of crop failures, it is the practice to hold over enough of each crop until the succeeding one is assured, and danger of a famine is past. If famine come, in spite of all, the Pueblo starves along as best he may until he can raise a new crop—dies, if must be, and outfits for Shipapu, but does not beg.


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The political status of the Pueblo Indian is distinctly different from that of our other native races. He is not a "ward of the Government," but, from the beginning of our authority over him, a United States citizen. Under Mexican law, the Pueblos were citizens of the Republic of Mexico, and the treaty between the United States and Mexico, entered into at Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, whereby the south-west territories were ceded to this country, provided for the extension of those rights of citizenship under our law. The courts of New Mexico have several times affirmed that the Pueblos of that territory are citizens of the United States, and had there been no special legislation to the contrary, their right to vote at general elections could not have been denied. Luckily for the Pueblos, the exercise of such a right was deemed inexpedient and the New Mexico Legislative Assembly in 1854 passed an Act excluding the Pueblo Indians ‘‘for the present and until they shall be declared by the Congress of the United States to have the right,’’ from the privilege of voting, except in matters proper to their own pueblos, "according to their ancient customs."


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Moreover, the lands occupied by the New Mexico Pueblos are not Government Reservations, as in the case of other Indians; but are the Pueblos' own—originally by grants of the Spanish crown, and later confirmed to them by United States patents, with some subsequent additions, in the case of certain pueblos, by Executive order.

The Arizona Pueblos—the Hopis—have been less fortunate in the recognition of their political status. Their lands are theirs only by grace of an Executive order of December 16, 1882, creating the Moqui Reservation, and judging by past Indian history, the Hopi Pueblos of Moqui may be "move on" whenever enough white people of necessary influence, who want the land, say so. At present, there is a Government allotting agent at work there, seeking to apportion lands to individuals under the terms of the general Allotment Act of Congress. There seems also a curious disposition on the part of the Office of Indian Affairs to exclude the Hopis from the class of Pueblo Indians. They were, up to 1896, designated in the reports of the Indian Office as Moqui Pueblos; but since that, they figure therein shorn of their Pueblo appendage. The Government's treatment of them is practically as of any Reservation Indians and their decadence is correspondingly progressing.

A cupid of Shimo rovi. The very small children go unattired in summer in Moqui.


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