Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521

Volume VI

April 2000

Number IV


Current Issue




About Us




Collaborative Stewardship in Northern New Mexico April 27-28, Taos Kachina Lodge

Peñasco Students Honor Our Elders By Mark Schiller


The Bison Roam Again at Picuris Pueblo By Kay Matthews

 Aamodt Water Rights Litigation: 35 Years of Controversy

Editorial By Kay Matthews

Pecos River Watershed Alliance Update

Legislative Update: Acequia Issues

Collaborative Stewardship in Northern New Mexico

April 27-28, Taos Kachina Lodge


Friday, April 27

8:30 am: Opening remarks, Cecelia Seescholz, Camino Real District Ranger and Jake Kosek, Moderator

9:00 am: Community Forestry Panel (Trees), moderated by Jake Kosek. Panel members: Max Córdova, La Montaña de Truchas; Antonio DeVargas, La Companía Ocho; Henry Lopez, USFS; Kurt Winchester, USFS; Jan-Willem Jansens, Common Ground; Brett Olsen, lawyer

12:00 pm: Free lunch at the hotel

1:15 pm: Water/Agriculture Panel (Soil), moderated by Kay Matthews. Panel members: Paula Garcia, New Mexico Acequia Association; Lynda Prim, The Farm Connection; Brett Olsen, lawyer; Louis Hena, Picuris Pueblo ED; Abe Franklin, New Mexico ED

4:00 pm: Closing remarks

 Saturday, April 28

8:30 am: Grazing Panel (Grass), moderated by

Virgil Trujillo. Panel members: George Maestas, Andie Sanchez, Esteven Lopez, Santa Barbara Grazing Assoc.; Matt Mitchell, organic beef rancher; Joe Torres, Valle Vidal Grazing Assoc.; Steve Miranda, USFS; Will Barnes, The Conservation Fund; Courtney White, the Quivira Coalition

12:00 pm: Field trip to Santa Barbara Canyon (weather and road conditions permitting) Bag lunch will be provided by hotel

Please RSVP Courtney White at 820-2544 so that we can accommodate lunch and transportation.

Peñasco Students Honor Our Elders

By Mark Schiller

"My father died when I was five years old and my mother had to raise me and my five sisters by herself," Sophia Lopez, 91, of Las Trampas told her granddaughter Gwendolyn Aguilar, an 11th grader at the Peñasco High School. The interview, conducted in Spanish, was part of the Honoring Our Elders program, sponsored by the Peñasco/Picuris Community Coalition. Now in its second year, the program brings together a group of 14 middle and high school students who conduct videotaped, oral history interviews with elders in the many small communities of the Peñasco area.

Gwendolyn Aguilar, Santiago Garcia, Sophia Lopez, Ben Aguilar, Magdelene Kellywood, and Miel Castagna

Ben Aguilar, Health and Safety Coordinator for the Peñasco Schools, organized the students who tape and conduct the interviews. "It's an opportunity for our students to learn about the history and culture of our area in a first-hand way while also learning to conduct, film, and edit interviews. They get to meet important members of the community, who many of them don't normally come in contact with, and learn new skills. It raises awareness and their sense of self-esteem." Aguilar also pointed out that two of the elders from last year's program have subsequently died and that their stories would have been lost if the interviews had not been done.

Twelfth grade student Magdelene Kellywood of Picuris Pueblo, and 11th grade student Santiago Garcia of Chamisal, who videotaped the interview with Mrs. Lopez, said they'd learned that while life may be easier in some ways today, many elders believe that the overall quality of life has deteriorated. "Most of the elders have told us that they think TV is a bad influence. People used to visit each other's homes and socialize at dances. They helped each other more and there was a stronger sense of community. A lot of the elders complain that children today don't know much about their native cultures and don't speak their native languages." Kellywood and Garcia said that they enjoyed learning how to use the video and editing equipment and mentoring younger students in those skills. All the students agreed that participating in the program had sparked their interest in media arts and journalism.

"The Picuris/Peñasco Community Coalition, which sponsors the program through grants from the McCune Foundation and the New Mexico Department of Health, brings together a group of about 20 community agencies that are concerned about health and cultural issues in the area," Miel Castagna, event coordinator for the coalition, explained. The coalition, which also sponsors an annual health fair in the fall, is organizing a celebration on April 28 at 2 pm in the Peñasco Elementary School Commons. The event will honor 18 elders from 12 communities and 14 students (see side bar) who participated in the program. "Everyone is invited to attend," Castagna said. "There's going to be a salsa contest, so we're encouraging everyone to bring their favorite recipe, and prizes will be awarded. Free appetizers will also be available, and we're asking people to bring potluck desserts." Community members are also asked to bring photos of elders 80 years of age or older for an Elders Hall of Fame.

This year, for the first time, the students are being taught to edit the video themselves on a new IMac computer the coalition obtained for the school. The students will interweave the 14 interviews into an approximately hour-long video which will be available at the school and through the coalition. For more information call 1-800-860-7087 or 587-2067.

Participating Elders:

Silas Salazar, 93, Ojo Sarco

José & Josefa Dominguez, 100 & 96, Chamisal

George & Oralia Romero, 86 & 78, El Valle

Sofia Lopez, 91, Las Trampas

David Rodriguez & Dulcinia Tafoya, 84 & 74, Llano de San Juan

Reyecita Lopez, 88, Picuris

Francis Martinez, 86, Picuris

Gabrielita Rael, 94, Peñasco

Ascension Romero, 90, Rodarte

Bernabe & Manuelita Gurule, 89 & 82, Rio Lucio

Leonardita Barela, 96, Truchas

Corina Valdez Duran, 88, Vadito

Jack & Mattie Ready, 75 & 72, Tres Ritos


Participating Students:

High School

Santiago Garcia

Christine Campbell

Carlos Pacheco

Gwendolyn Aguilar

Adam Romero

Rebecca Lopez

Antonio Gonzales

Magdelene Kellywood

Maxine Casados

 Middle School

Gloriadell Gonzales

Elicia Gonzales

Jaclyn Wheeler

Cody Allrunner

Rodney Archuleta


• The Camino Real Ranger District is proposing a 100 acre prescribed burn in the Ruedas Ecosystem Improvement Project along SH 76 and FR 155 to reduce the fuel load resulting from a fuelwood harvest in 1996. An estimated 50,000 cubic feet of merchantable wood products were removed between 1996 and 1997 and a large amount of fuelwood slash remains. The proposed burn would also improve wildlife and livestock forage and watershed stability. The burn would be accomplished during appropriate conditions or "burn windows" in order to provide for safety to the public. If you have any questions you can contact Steve Miranda or Cecilia Seesholtz at the Camino Real Ranger Station, 587-2255. Comments should be mailed by April 15, 2001 to P.O. Box 68, Peñasco, NM 87553.

 • The Quivira Coalition is offering two, three-day clinics on the principles of low-stress livestock management, including herding. Session I will be held April 30-May 2 (Mon-Wed) and will emphasize the fundamentals. Session II will be held May 3-5 (Thurs-Sat) and will emphasize advanced techniques. Both sessions will be held at the Ghost Ranch conference center, located 60 miles northwest of Santa Fe. The instructors, Tim MacGaffic, Steve Allen, and Guy Glosson, all have extensive experience with low-stress methods. The cost of each session is $300, which includes instruction fee and room and board. Please call Courtney White for reservations: 505 820-2544.

Looking for Youth Forestry Workers

 Forest Trust is recruiting a New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps for the summer of 2001. For each of the seven national forests in New Mexico Forest Trust will hire six crew members and a crew leader between the ages of 16 and 25. The Trust will also hire one adult per crew to provide training in restoration skills and supervisory oversight. Projects will include fencing, revegetation, habitat improvement, watershed monitoring, stock tank construction, and trail construction and restoration. The work will take place between June 4 and August 3; crews will camp at field sites on the national forest closest to their homes. Participants will receive an hourly wage (starting at $6 per hour for crew members, $7 per hour for crew leaders, and $9 per hour for crew trainer), food stipend, workers compensation insurance coverage, and on-the-job training.

The deadline for applications is April 27.The following schools and ranger districts may be contacted for more information or applications: Capitan HS; Cliff HS; El Rito RD; Española HS; Española RD; Jemez Pueblo; Jemez RD; McCurdy HS; Mesa Vista HS; Mountainair HS; Mountainair RD; Pecos HS; Pecos RD; Pojoaque HS; Ruidoso HS; Silver City RD; Smokey Bear RD; West Las Vegas HS. Or contact Orlando Romero or Martha Schumann at Forest Trust, 983-8992, ext. 13 or 23.

The Bison Roam Again at Picuris Pueblo

By Kay Matthews

Jonette and Danny Sam drive down the rutted dirt road along the Rio Pueblo at Picuris two times a day to feed the pueblo's herd of 27 bison. Once the pastures of alfalfa and grass are ready for grazing, the herd will graze in field rotation: "We're striving for sustainability with the herd, where we can grow all our own feed," Danny says. He pointed to the ridgeline to the west: "We hope to clear that land for pasture as well. We're a relatively small pueblo, and we need to put whatever lands we have available back into agricultural production."

Danny and Jonette Sam with bison herd

The herd wanders over to the truck, curious to see if this is a food trip. "They're pretty friendly creatures," Danny says, "but you do have to be careful not to get in their way. That bull weighs more than 2,000 pounds." The herd is comprised of 17 females, five of whom are pregnant, and 10 bulls that will be pro-cessed for meat and hides.

The tribe has slowly built up the herd since they acquired one animal in 1991. As a member of the Intertribal Bison Cooperative, which includes 55 members nationwide, the pueblo is one of the five northern New Mexico pueblos that keep herds (Taos, San Juan, Nambe, and Pojoaque are the others). They all work cooperatively to establish new blood lines - Picuris recently traded a bull with Pojoaque - and keep the animals vaccinated, wormed, and in good health. The Bison Cooperative provided grant money so that Picuris could purchase equipment necessary to handle the bison: a system of sweep tub, alleys, and squeeze chute arrived last Feast Day from the Powder River Company.


As part of their program of self-sufficiency, the Sams are exploring the bison meat market, starting first at Picuris, where they want to sell ground meat, steaks, and jerky to the pueblo residents. "We've distributed the meat for free previously," Jonette says, "and everyone seems to like it, so we'll see if people like it enough to buy it!" If they can sell it successfully at Picuris they would then look into distributing it to the other pueblos. "We'd like to keep it a pueblo project," Danny says, "to improve the nutritional aspect of our diet and encourage people to get involved in all aspects of the program so that we can cover all our management expenses - fencing, food production, salaries, processing of hides." They are currently using the processor in Mora, which is USDA approved, to butcher the animals.

In the Sam's office at the Picuris Environment Department a huge bison hide is draped over some filing cabinets: the fur is thick and the hide is soft. "We all worked to tan the hide, including our kids, although Danny did most of it," Jonette says. They want to use it as part of an educational display, along with a decorated skull and other bison products, to show how versatile the bison is. People at least seem ready to eat it: "Ground meat sells for $4.99 a pound in the grocery store, and ribeye steaks are sold at $19.99 a pound over the Internet," Jonette says. "We're very happy with the program, and the tribal government gives us their support." While the traditional herds that roamed the Mora Valley are only a distant memory, Picuris and its partners are doing what they can to resurrect the relationship of the bison and the pueblo people.


Aamodt Water Rights Litigation: 35 Years of Controversy

By Kay Matthews and Mark Schiller

A recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge E.L. Mechem on the Aamodt water suit has once again brought the longstanding controversy over water use in the Pojoaque Valley to the front page. The decision states that the involved Pueblos - Pojoaque, Nambe, Tesuque, and San Ildefonso - are limited to their domestic water use that was established between 1846 (the year the United States seized control of New Mexico) and 1924 (the year of the Pueblo Lands Act which sought to resolve disputes over Pueblo land and water rights).

The more than 30-year old Aamodt case is one of the longest in federal court history. The suit, filed by the New Mexico State Engineer, seeks to force the federal courts to decide how to allocate water among Pueblos and non-Indians in the Pojoaque Valley. In a previous district court decision in 1985, Mechem limited the pueblos' stream water rights to the acreage irrigated between these same two dates. Since August of 2000 the parties to the suit have been in mediation with an Arizona state court judge to try to reach a settlement. Despite Mechem's ruling, settlement hearings continue.

Mechem's decision, if upheld, might seriously impact pueblo development plans, such as the 36-hole golf course at Pojoaque Pueblo or the casinos at Pojoaque and Tesuque. The decision would also impact current domestic water use at all the pueblos because, as San Ildefonso Pueblo attorney Peter Chestnut has pointed out, "1924 was a time not only when the population was smaller but things like indoor plumbing hadn't come to the pueblos." He told La Jicarita that the pueblos feel a negotiated settlement is going to be better for all parties rather than going back to court for a quantification of rights.

In the wake of the decision, Senator Pete Domenici met with both the pueblos and the Pojoaque Valley Irrigation District (PVID) and claims there is consensus for a regional water delivery system, which could potentially supply all domestic water needs within the valley. However, at the February 22 Pojoaque Regional Water Planning meeting valley residents and representatives of the PVID made it abundantly clear that what they want is a waste treatment system, not a water delivery system. They pointed out that while some existing wells have a contamination problem, a water delivery system would benefit new uses at the expense of existing water rights. David Ortiz, president of the PVID, told La Jicarita he suspects that Domenici is being pressured by the city and county of Santa Fe to push the water delivery system so that the plumbing is in place to eventually send water to Santa Fe. Orlando Romero, board member of the PVID, said that it would be "political suicide" for Domenici to promote a water delivery system rather than a waste treatment system. Others at the meeting raised the same concerns and pointed out that the San Juan/Chama water that Santa Fe is looking to divert to solve its future water needs is limited and is "not really going to save them. We're not going to negotiate one drop of water."

The city and county of Santa Fe are currently exploring the feasibility of an infiltration gallery on San Ildefonso land that would divert water from the Rio Grande alluvium to the Buckman well fields via a pipeline. Romero pointed out that this project is fraught with problems, including the difficulty of "dealing with the quasi-sovereign status of the pueblos" and the fact that it has not been determined if water from such a diversion is ground or surface water (this issue is currently being debated in the Top of the World water transfer protest hearing before the Office of the State Engineer).

People at the regional water planning meeting also discussed the issue of whether a water delivery system would facilitate and encourage unwanted growth in the valley. Ortiz pointed out that a water system can serve more people at a higher density. In a conversation with La Jicarita Romero added that Nambe is already suffering from developers exploiting the family subdivision provisions which allow three-quarter acre lot splits. He talked about a twelve-acre lot of formerly irrigated land which is being subdivided into three-quarter acre plots. "I'd like to know where the acequia rights from this land are going, and if they're being sold or leased why aren't the local people being given the opportunity to acquire them?" Acequia water that is lost to the community depletes ground water recharge, so that the water table drops and wells go dry. As someone at the meeting pointed out, "It's all the same water."

"People in the valley are not going to give up their wells," Romero insisted. A well is entitled to pump three-acre feet per year, whereas the State Engineer has been inconsistent in determining what amount of water a community is entitled to use per household when it commits its well water to a mutual domestic association. Moreover, this water can only be used for indoor, household domestic purposes while a well can be used to water livestock and irrigate. The twelve mutual domestics in the Taos area are currently involved in a adjudication lawsuit with the State Engineer to determine the amount of water they are allowed to pump (see side bar on page 5).

Both Ortiz and Romero believe that the State Engineer should file suit on behalf of the state if the pueblos are using water rights that they may not own to facilitate development. The State Engineer has taken the position that its direction must come from the courts because it lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate Indian water rights. Ortiz says he's heard that 37,000 acre feet of water is needed by the four pueblos for their planned developments: "With the ruling from Mechem I hope that the State Engineer will now make the effort to control this expansion or that the pueblos will acquire the necessary water rights."

Peter Chestnut responded that this figure of 37,000 acre feet is well above what the pueblos currently claim is necessary to meet future needs. According to Chestnut, the pueblos would like to see a regional water delivery system within the Pojoaque Valley and support Domenici's efforts to acquire funding for a feasibility study. In response to the concerns expressed by PVID members that a water delivery system would jeopardize their existing ground water rights, Chestnut minimized their concerns: "State law says that the determination of ground water rights is based on beneficial use, and most people don't use anywhere near 3 acre feet. It's closer to a quarter to half-acre foot, so they wouldn't in fact be losing any water." Chestnut acknowledged, however, that because these rights have not been adjudicated, there is no accurate measurement of use.

While the people at the regional water planning meeting were obviously concerned about the burgeoning growth at Pojoaque Pueblo and the attendant water demands, they emphasized that the relationship between valley residents and the pueblo is critical, and are fearful that it is being eroded beyond repair because of these water issues. They also acknowledged that it is developers like those in Las Campanas who are responsible for the even greater threats of poorly planned and thirsty growth that affect the entire county. They fear that rural communities and their water will be sacrificed to urban interests that are unable or unwilling to control this kind of growth and demand for water. As one person at the meeting bluntly put it, "Use of precious water for golf courses is a sin."

While possible solutions were also discussed - tax incentives for preservation of agricultural lands, land trusts, transfer of development rights, water conservation, regional water planning, and water banking to protect water locally - the frustration and fear for the future were palpable.

Taos Valley Mutual Domestics Adjudication Suit

 As part of the adjudication of Taos Valley water rights, which has been ongoing since the late 1960s, the 12 area mutual domestic water consumer associations (MDWCA) will begin a hearing April 16 to define the criteria by which their domestic water rights will be quantified. According to a fact sheet put together by Taos attorney Mary Humphrey, who is representing the associations, "Through the years, the State Engineer's Office (SEO) never adopted any standards or guidelines for quantifying the perfected rights [of mutual domestic water associations]. The consequence is that many systems' rights [have been] greatly under-quantified."

Since 1956, when the SEO first allowed 3-acre feet for each well or family use from a ditch, river, or spring, the SEO has continually diminished the amount of water allocated per person per day. In the case of the upper Des Montes MDWCA the SEO has reduced the allocation to 60 gallons per person per day if the allocation is a transfer from a domestic well. Transfers from surface water rights allocate only 15 gallons per person per day. This formula has resulted in gross inequities, such as the case in the village of La Madera, where an entire water system, consisting of 58 people, was allocated only 2.18 acre feet per year

Moreover, the SEO does not apply this formula consistently throughout the state. "Some associations have been given a right based on the pumping capacity of their system," says Humphrey. "Some systems have also been given return flow credits, thus ratcheting their original consumptive use into a much higher diversion rate. Some systems have managed to get their initial quantities upped by contacting the SEO. Other systems have been penalized for the same thing. There is no rhyme, reason, or consistency in which associations' water rights are quantified."


By Kay Matthews

In last month's issue of La Jicarita I talked about the workshop on conservation easements that I attended at the New Mexico Organic Farming and Gardening Expo held in February.The other session I attended was a debate on the genetic engineering of seeds. And when I say debate I'm being generous: emotions ran high in the packed room as audience members quickly took over the discussion. There is no middle ground on this highly controversial topic. The genetic manipulation of seeds is seen as either a technological wonder that will feed the world or as an ecological disaster leading us down a poisoned path toward the complete corporatization of agriculture.

One of the invited panelists, a scientist from Los Alamos, described the thinking behind the development of Starlink, a bacterial gene transferred into corn so the toxin can go after the gut wall of two types of insects. Her defense of this transgenic process is that scientists can then achieve a specificity that they can't get using pesticides, which pollute the soil and water. She also claimed that the genetically manipulated corn can be buffered from organically grown corn to protect seed diversity.

That comment immediately elicited a reaction from other panelists and audience members who argued that these transgenic seeds are not being separated from other seed stock, as proven in the recent recall of products mistakenly using Starlink feed corn, and that the whole transgenic process is being forced on the consumer by corporations like Monsanto without any understanding of its long-term effects. This brought up a discussion of why consumers in the United States are not emulating their European counterparts who have staged huge demonstrations against the transgenic process and have at least forced companies to label all genetically altered products so that the consumer can choose not to buy them.

But the most impassioned argument presented against transgenic seeds is that in reality it furthers the economic stranglehold corporations have on third world countries. The panel moderator used "golden rice" as an example.Vitamin A is implanted into this rice to "save" the third world from starvation and distributed by a huge corporation that has been exempted from bureaucratic regulations. But instead of "saving" the world it increases corporate dependency, breaks down biodiversity, and does nothing to address the real needs of these countries: sustainable regional economies, soil development, and diversity of crops. Essentially, it only furthers economic inequity, the fallacy of the "Green Revolution", and the industrialization of agriculture: In other words, globalization at its worst.

Pecos River Watershed Alliance Update

Spring brings the promise of several restoration projects for the Pecos River Watershed Alliance. The alliance, based in the San Miguel-Villanueva Pecos River valley, seeks to protect its agricultural and riparian lands through restoration and appropriate economic development that maintains traditional livelihoods.

A recent grant from Tree, New Mexico has spawned a tree-planting project at Villanueva State Park. During the last two weeks of April - Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays - the alliance will be planting desert willows and New Mexico olives with the students from Valley Elementary and Middle School at the state park to help restore wetlands habitat. The San Miguel Senior Center will also help, and the state park will have interpretive rangers on hand to provide information. Everyone is welcome to participant in the project. For more information volunteers can call 421-2998.

A second project, in collaboration with the Quivira Coalition, will be an on-the-ground assessment of four valley ranches which hope to eventually create a grassbank for area ranchers to utilize when they need to rest their own allotments. The Horse Thief Mesa ranches, which have been owned by local families for hundreds of years, are contiguous and comprise about 23,000 acres. The other two ranches, which have been resold and whose owners have been in the area for about 12 years, are located on what is called the Western Mesa, or the tail end of Rowe Mesa. All of the ranchers are interested in making their lands more productive and ensuring that their ranches remain intact.

A third project, in conjunction with the Sierra Club, is a dryland habitat restoration, which will involve planting in dry arroyos with appropriate native species. This will take place on April 21 from 9 am to 4 pm on Horse Thief Mesa and everyone is welcome to participate. For more information you may call Marcia Diane at 421-2998.

The Pecos River Watershed Alliance meets the first Saturday of every month at 10 am at the San Miguel Senior Center. Everyone is invited to attend. The Partners Land Trust serves as the nonprofit umbrella for the alliance. For more information about any of these projects or the alliance or land trust call Marcia Diane at 421-2998.

Legislative Update: Acequia Issues

As we go to press, Governor Johnson has not taken any action on the New Mexican Acequia Association-sponsored legislation that made it through the 2001 legislature. This includes:

• The Otowi Gage Memorial. This memorial is an endorsement of the ongoing policy of the State Engineer to prohibit water transfers across Otowi Gage, located near Pojoaque. The policy serves as a protection for northern New Mexico water rights from demands south of the gage.

• The Notice of Water Transfer Applications Bill. This bill requires that applicants seeking to transfer water rights must provide written notice to water managing political subdivisions (including acequia commissioners) in the "move from" and "move to" locations of the proposed transfer. As it stands now, notice need only be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the steam system of the "move from" area.

• The Forfeiture Exemption Bill. This bill amends the state statute to protect acequia-owned water rights from forfeiture, making acequia powers more consistent with those of irrigation districts.

Several other important bills passed largely through the efforts of the folks at the Santa Cruz Irrigation District and the Taos Valley Acequia Association. One of the bills stipulates that acequias in irrigation districts are classified as political subdivisions of the state and therefore qualify for New Mexico State Engineer Grants that help pay for acequia rehabilitation projects. The $600,000 appropriation for the Acequia and Community Ditch Fund helps acequia associations pay for their legal defense in water right adjudication suits.

La Jicarita News will take a month off and publish a May/June issue at the end of May. Look for it at the usual locations, and if you would like to subscribe, please send $5 to:

La Jicarita News

Box 6 El Valle Route

Chamisal, NM 87521

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