Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521

Volume XI

September 2006

Number VIII


Current Issue




About Us




Op Ed: It's Time to Hold Los Alamos National Laboratory Accountable By Kalliroi Matsakis, Media Network Coordinator, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety  


Editorial: Who Should Decide How Best to Manage Our Water? By Kay Matthews

San Miguel del Vado Adjudication: A Template for Injustice By Mark Schiller (The research for this article was underwritten by a stipend from the Office of the State Historian)


Op Ed: It's Time to Hold Los Alamos National Laboratory Accountable

By Kalliroi Matsakis, Media Network Coordinator, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Department of Energy (DOE) try to portray LANL as an institution apart from the rest of the world devoted to pure science. However, it is much more than that. LANL is the arm of national and international nuclear weapons policy, and thanks to their environmental practices, the pollutants they produce are a very real and tangible presence in our soil, our air, and our water.

In New Mexico's arid climate, as the quantity of water dwindles, its quality becomes increasingly important. It is vital that what water we do have be clean and pure. In the drought cycle, one wet year does not mean that the problem of contamination disappears through dilution. The water table will lower once again, and the contaminants will concentrate. During a wet year, the contaminants that have been left in the soil are flushed through the LANL canyons and into the Rio Grande.

Indications of the tangible impacts of LANL activities on our water supplies have already begun to surface. For instance, hexavalent chromium has been found in a well used to provide information about the regional aquifer. Hexavalent chromium is the contaminant in the movie Erin Brockovich. It interferes with thyroid function, which is integral to the function of the entire body. For instance, if a pregnant woman is exposed to hexavalent chromium when the thyroid of the fetus is developing, the fetus as a whole will be harmed.

LANL discovered hexavalent chromium in the regional aquifer at four times the state drinking water standard in January 2004. By the time an official report was submitted to the state Environment Department almost two years later, the levels had doubled, making them eight times our drinking water standard. This fast moving contaminant continues to travel. We still do not have accurate information regarding its direction and extent. We do know that five drinking water wells surround the contaminated well. Further, it is possible that this contamination could reach the Buckman Wellfield, where Santa Fe gets 40% of its drinking water. The total chromium levels at the Buckman Tank are rising, and increased five-fold between 2004 and 2005.

LANL must be held accountable for its past practices. We must demand full clean up and remediation of contaminated sites. One of the proposed cleanup plans consists of simply covering contaminated sites in such a way that it would be within health standards for people to work 40 hours a week in an industrial job on the site. This level of cleanup does not account for flooding, erosion, or run off. It assumes that the contamination will simply stay exactly where it is. However, water from rain and melting snow will run over this contaminated soil and seep through the earth into our water supplies. This cleanup plan does not allow for the possibility of a future change in land use, not even one so slight as to account for childcare being provided on site. In order to allow the future the flexibility it deserves and demands, the land must be as safe and clean as possible.

Perhaps even more importantly, these practices cannot continue. We can learn from LANL's mistakes and apply a preventative principle when deciding what the future of LANL will be. The consequences of the possible activities must be fully considered before allowing them. And then, the consequences that operations may have on the health, environment and the communities in New Mexico and the world must be used as the basis for deciding what can be done. Critical for prevention is accepting uncertainty and trusting doubt. If we do not know what will occur, then we must wait until we do. This, however, is not the approach taken by DOE.

DOE intends to go forward and expand the activities at LANL. They have recently released a draft Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) for LANL. The draft SWEIS lays out the planned programs at LANL for the next five years and evaluates the environmental impacts of those programs. DOE seeks to quadruple the level of plutonium pit production from 20 to 80 pits per year, which will nearly double the amount of transuranic (plutonium contaminated) waste produced. A plutonium pit is the core of a nuclear bomb, such as the one the United States dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, but far more powerful. In the draft SWEIS, DOE rejects out of hand the possibility of changing LANL's mission to one focused on life-affirming research, such as green renewable energy and sophisticated cleanup technologies. Perhaps most disturbing, DOE asserts that there will be no significant impacts from their planned operations.

In the draft SWEIS, DOE does not consider a preventative principle. Instead, it has decided to increase nuclear weapons production at LANL, and has therefore compiled the required documentation to support that decision. The documentation is not predicated on accepted science and is based on studies that have not been finalized. The analysis of risks to human health relies on the draft Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) public health assessment. This assessment was rejected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and never finalized because of lack of funds. In comments about the draft assessment last summer, the EPA stated, "ATSDR may have been overly conservative in their risk assessment approach and makes a blanket statement that there is no problem. ATSDR should redo their risk assessment to reduce conservatism and not assume that there is no risk." An inaccurate, incomplete and inadequate public health assessment misdirects policy, undermines pollution prevention and thereby increases the risk to human health and the environment.

The draft SWEIS was released before either the risk assessment for LANL's low-level waste dump at Area G or the 2006 seismic hazard study were completed. Even more scientifically unsound than this draft "public health assessment" is LANL's belief that referencing any draft document at all is good science. It is impossible to accurately determine the environmental and health impacts for future operations at LANL based on incomplete analysis. The draft SWEIS should be pulled until a scientifically and technically defensible public health assessment, Area G risk assessment and seismic hazard report are written and made available for public review and comment. Only then may these documents be used as a basis for decisions.

The environmental practices of LANL must be changed. Entrenched habits of environmental negligence and disregard for those living in the surrounding area cannot be allowed to continue. LANL must be held accountable for the contamination it has caused.

Below is the Shared Values Statement for LANL Water Watch, a network of diverse organizations who have come together to protect our water and hold LANL accountable. Please join the effort by signing the statement and returning it to Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety at the address below.



All people and our communities are intricately tied to the health of rivers, acequias and other waters. Historical and on-going activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) threaten our cultural, spiritual and ecological survival. To ensure the good health of watersheds downstream and downwind from LANL and the good health of the Río Grande to provide safe drinking water, clean water for irrigation and pure water for sacred ceremony now and in the future, we acknowledge and assert the following:

1. All people that live downstream and downwind from LANL require and have a right to clean water for drinking, sacred ceremony, growing food, raising animals, recreating, and overall wellbeing.

2. Traditional, indigenous cultures that live downstream and downwind from LANL require and have a right to pure water for sacred ceremony.

3. Wildlife and ecosystems living downstream and downwind from LANL need and depend upon clean water for their survival.

4. Healthy communities require clean rivers, groundwater, and watersheds to achieve a strong economy and sustainable future.

5. Our local, state, and federal government agencies have a duty to protect the public health and welfare by setting and enforcing laws and regulations that protect water resources downwind and downstream from LANL.

6. Healthy communities and ecosystems require clean, innovative, and life-affirming science and technology that will benefit the economy, the future, and the health of all.

7. We recognize and respect that flowing water does not seek or uphold political, social, cultural or economical boundaries.

Based on these values we assert that historic toxic waste must be cleaned up now to protect drinking water, and life-threatening pollutants that are the by-products of on-going LANL activities must be kept from contaminating our watersheds and tainting the Rio Grande. Adequate funding must be provided to clean up contamination at LANL to achieve these shared values.

Endorsed by: Amigos Bravos, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Don Gabino Andrade Community Acequia, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group, New Mexico Acequia Association, Partnership for Earth Spirituality, Rio Grande Restoration, Tewa Women United.

Join these organizations in holding LANL accountable and protecting New Mexico's water resources by signing this statement. Please go to www.nuclearactive.org to print a copy and mail it to Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, 107 Cienega St., Santa Fe, NM 87501.


• Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! will speak and sign her new book at a benefit for Cultural Energy, the Taos radio production non-profit, on Thursday, September 28th at noon at the Taos Community Auditorium. Doors are open at 11:15 and the program begins at 11:45 with youth activists and poets Juman Khweis and Lyla Johnston. After Goodman's speech she will sign copies of her new book, written with David Goodman, Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders and the People Who Fight Back. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and are available at Moby Dickens Bookshop, Kulture Cafe/Mondo Video, and Cultural Energy (192 Blueberry Hill, the old KTAO studio), or mail a check to HCR74 Box 21912, El Prado, NM 87529. A special Middle Eastern box lunch is $5 in advance. Come support Cultural Energy, creating media voices for youth, arts and activism in northern New Mexico.

Editorial: Who Should Decide How Best to Manage Our Water?

By Kay Matthews

In last month's La Jicarita News I wrote an article about how critical it is that we define just what constitutes public welfare, one of the criterion by which the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) manages New Mexico's water resources, during this time of increased transfer requests to meet the needs of urban development and settle Indian water rights claims. The State Water Plan, released in 2004, mandates that each Regional Water Plan (RWPs) (there are 16 of them in New Mexico) develop its own public welfare statement, based on local needs and concerns, and I quoted former State Engineer Eluid Martinez, who many years ago endorsed this concept: "Whether a given area is to be preserved for traditional uses, such as agriculture, or converted to new uses such as subdivisions and commercial enterprises is more appropriately decided by local governmental entities charged with land zoning and development activities."

While some of the already completed RWPs have drafted public welfare statements that have been approved by the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC), there have been delays and internecine fights within the planning areas instigated by special interests that don't want to see what they interpret as "restrictions" on their ability to move water to the "highest and best uses", i.e., urban and industrial growth and development. Unfortunately, the Santa Fe law firm of Stein & Brockmann, which specializes in municipal water law, is now working to undermine the Public Welfare Statement and Implementation Program drafted by a subcommittee of the Taos Regional Water Plan (TRWP).

At the last meeting of the TRWP steering committee that law firm, which represents El Prado Water and Santiation District, one of the parties to the Taos Pueblo Water Rights Settlement, or Abeyta adjudication, submitted a letter objecting to the proposed criteria and implementation plan included in the draft TRWP. Several other parties to the Abeyta, and the Taos County Association of Realtors (whose name also appeared on the Stein & Brockmann letter as a client) submitted letters predicated on the Stein & Brockmann letter, raising the same issues. Because the parties to the Abeyta had been in negotiation on their proposed settlement during the time TRWP has been meeting over the course of the last several years and did not regularly attend TRWP meetings, their concerns are being expressed at the eleventh hour (the draft TRWP is to be completed by December 31 of this year).

While I have certainly been supportive of the Abeyta settlement as a much more equitable adjudication than the Aamodt adjudication in the Pojoaque Basin (see La Jicarita News, May and June, 2006), I think their concerns reflect a bias towards protecting their negotiated settlement, which includes only the Taos Valley, while the TRWP is the management plan for the entire Taos area, including the county and part of the Ojo Caliente area of Rio Arriba County. In the settlement there are provisions for transferring water rights to offset any "Future Groundwater Diversions" by the Town of Taos and El Prado Water and Sanitation District, rights that could conceivably come from sub-watersheds within the TRWP area. The parties to the Abeyta need to remember that the burden of these settlements sometimes falls on people who have not been sitting at the table, and any proposed transfer of those water rights should also have to meet the criteria laid out in the Public Welfare Statement.

Many of the points of concern they raised in their letters are easily refutable. Almost all of them claim that the draft Public Welfare Statement is contrary to state law because it is creating "new standards" that don't fall within the three statutory criteria that dermine whether a water transfer application should be granted: 1) it does not impair existing water rights; 2) it is not detrimental to the public welfare of the state of New Mexico; and 3) it is not contrary to conservation of water within the state. As ISC representative Mary Helen Follingstad, water planning programs manager, pointed out at the last TRWP meeting, however, state law does not define what the public welfare of the state is so how can they claim the Taos Public Welfare Statement is contrary to state law?

Their second claim asserts that by setting up a Public Welfare Implementation Program the TRWP is duplicating the process already overseen by the OSE in water transfers. Again, as Follingstad pointed out, the state has mandated the RWPs to develop their own public welfare statements, and several of them, with very specific and stringent criteria, have already been adopted. She also pointed out that the TRWP has been "very creative in what you've done" by drafting the Public Welfare Implementation Program that would review all transfer applications based on the Public Welfare Statement criteria and make recommendations to the OSE. The parties claim that this "circumvents" state law because the review committee, which is "without standing" in the OSE protest process, could prevent transfers. While many of us wish that local committees like this were invested with greater powers to influence OSE decisions with regard to water transfers, the Public Welfare Implementation Program will be only an advisory body. The OSE has a long history of rubber stamping transfers and has been negligent for far too long in failing to define what the public welfare is.

The law firm's letter also states that "The Public Welfare Statement, combined with the Conservation Statement [also drafted by a subcommittee of the TRWP], would result in the denial of all future transfers of water rights in the Taos Valley" and in the proliferation of domestic wells. What a presumptuous statement. Apparently they are fearful that any future water applications made by the municipalities may indeed be contrary to the Public Welfare and they will be faced with the reality of actually tying growth to the availability of water. And finally, all the papers end with some form of statement that the restrictiveness of these proposals will result in a taking of private property without just compensation. The Taos Pueblo letter concurs with this assessment with the additional overlay of its claim of sovereignty.

There seem to be three fundamental arguments the lawyers for these Abeyta parties are raising: 1) Water is a private property right, not a public resource that can be regulated for the public good; 2) economic development has precedence over other water management concerns; and 3) approval of the TRWP Public Welfare Statement would prevent successful settlement of the Taos Pueblo Water Rights Claim. All three of these arguments do nothing to add to the discourse necessary to resolve water problems in New Mexico, but instead continue to muddy waters that are already over appropriated, are diminishing due to drought, and are being used unsustainably to generate profit for the few at the expense of the many. Water rights holders throughout the Taos region would be better served with the implementation of the TRWP Public Welfare Statement and Implementation Program.


In a recent e-mail to La Jicarita News, Placitas mayordomo and community activist Lynne Montgomery expressed his frustration with his involvement in drafting a Public Welfare Statement for the Middle Rio Grande Regional Water Plan. He emphatically presented his postion on water transfers: "No transfers of rights until they are adjudicated! Save every square inch of agricultural land as a survival tactic! Keep the water with the land and only allow leasing of adjudicated rights that are not being used at the moment! Trash any conservation initiatives that don't emphatically state at the beginning that the freed up water will be used to pay our budget debts and not for new development! Apply science and factor in the real effects of groundwater pumping vs surface use! These are not negotiable!!"




La Jicarita News 10th Anniversary Party

El Grupo

Ike DeVargas

Malcolm Ebright and Chellis Glendinning

San Miguel del Vado Adjudication: A Template for Injustice

By Mark Schiller (The research for this article was underwritten by a stipend from the Office of the State Historian)

 The adjudication of the San Miguel del Vado land grant set a legal precedent that dispossessed at least seven New Mexico community land grants of more than one million acres of community property. The history of this adjudication by the United States federal government is a tragic story punctuated by scandal, chicanery, and misrepresentation. It began straightforwardly enough in 1857 when Faustin Baca y Ortiz, a resident of San Miguel, petitioned the Office of the Surveyor General on behalf of all the settlers residing within the grant for confirmation of "all cultivated and uncultivated lands" within the boundaries as stipulated in the original 1794 petition and act of possession. However, by the time the claim was finally patented in 1910 it had been stripped of its common lands and reduced from approximately 315,000 acres to approximately 5,000 acres,

Because we simply don't have space to tell the entire complicated and fascinating story of this adjudication, I'm going to limit my discussion to the legal issues raised during its final episodes before the Court of Private Land Claims (1894) and the United States Supreme Court (1897).

The United States Attorney for the Court of Private Land Claims, Matthew G. Reynolds, a man fanatically dedicated to retaining as much land in the public domain as possible, conceded the legitimacy of the grant and the settlers' title to their irrigated and residential tracts. However, he speciously asserted that under Spanish and Mexican law title to the common lands, which comprised the majority of the grant, remained vested in the sovereign and therefore was transferred to the United States upon the change of sovereignty.

Ironically, the Court of Private Land Claims, which unjustly denied or reduced the majority of legitimate claims that it adjudicated, actually made the correct decision in this case, confirming the grant in its entirety. Reynolds, however, understood the important precedent that decision set and immediately filed an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. On 24 May 1897 the Supreme Court issued a ruling on the appeal overturning the decree that confirmed the entire grant to the community claimants, and remanding the case back to the Court of Private Land Claims to confirm only the land that had been allocated for private allotments.

The Supreme Court's decision, in what came to be known as the Sandoval case (in reference to one of the claimants), was based upon a gross misinterpretation of Spanish law, an ignorance of customary land grant law and tradition and an extraordinarily narrow interpretation of the Court's authority. It hinged on two legal assertions, both of which were erroneous.

First, the Supreme Court decision reviewed the 1891 mandate creating the Court of Private Land Claims in an effort to demonstrate that the Court's authority was limited. The purpose of this ploy was to establish that the Court did not have the authority to confirm title to the commons based upon the equitable right that grant residents had established through 100 years of continuous use. This assertion was clearly untrue.

Section 7 of the Act Creating the Court of Private Land Claims states: "That all proceedings subsequent to the filing of said petition shall be conducted as near as may be according to the practice of the courts of equity of the United States." It continues, "The said court shall have full power and authority to hear and determine all questions arising in cases before it relative to the title to the land . . . , the extent, location and boundaries thereof, and other matters connected therewith fit and proper to be heard and determined, and by a final decree to settle and determine the validity of the title and the boundaries of the grant or claim presented for adjudication, according to the law of nations [international law], the stipulations of the treaty concluded between the United States and the Republic of Mexico at the city of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, . . . and the laws and ordinances of the Government from which it was alleged to have been derived, and all other questions properly arising between the claimants or other parties in the case and the United States. . ." These are broad powers indeed and the Court was obviously choosing to interpret them as narrowly as possible in order to render the government invulnerable to this legitimate land claim.

The decision then goes on to consider the core issue: "Did the fee [i.e., the title] to lands embraced within the limits of the pueblo and intended for community use continue to remain in the sovereign or did it pass to the pueblo?" The Court's discussion of this critical issue was strictly limited to referencing several fragments of Spanish colonial law taken out of context and presented as if they were authoritative. It ignores other laws that contradict them and completely neglects to reference customary law and traditional usage. An unbiased court, which looked comprehensively at the issue of Spanish and Mexican land tenure, would have come to a vastly different conclusion.

According to historian David Vassberg, the Spanish system of land tenure clearly distinguished the royal or public domain, known as tierras realengas or tierras baldías, from community owned lands, known as tierras concegiles, and enacted a series of laws to protect community property from misappropriation by anyone, including the king himself.

Typically, residents of community land grants received individual title to the land their homes were constructed upon and the irrigated fields they planted, and a communal interest in the unallotted lands within the grant's exterior boundaries. These communal lands were used primarily for pasturing livestock, wood gathering, extraction of building materials and hunting. Without exclusive access to these common lands, subsistence would have been impossible. Moreover, although these lands were also available for future settlement, the utilization level was clearly monitored and when a community's ayuntamiento [i.e., governing body] determined that a grant had reached its utilization capacity, new settlers or settlers seeking to expand their allotments were encouraged to seek a new grant, as was the case with the San Miguel del Vado residents who received the Las Vegas grant.

Ownership of these communal lands or ejidos by the municipal corporate body is evidenced in numerous ways. From a strictly practical perspective, it's unthinkable that these settlers would risk their lives taking up residence on a highly dangerous frontier if they were not secure in the idea that the common lands, upon which their subsistence depended, belonged to them and their successors.

Spanish law supports this position. Partida 3, Title 28, Law 9 of Las Siete Partidas, the main compendium of Spanish law during the period we are concerned with, stipulates: "[the things which] belong separately to the commons of cities or towns are . . . the ejidos [commons] . . . forests, and pastures, and all other similar places which have been established and granted for the common use of each city and town." Partida 3, Title 28, Law 10 states that municipal lands "belong in common to all the dwellers of the city or town to which they belong . . ." Volume II, Book IV, Title VII, Law XIV of the Recopilación de las Leyes de los Reynos de las Indias, a compendium of law specifically formulated to govern Spanish colonies in the western hemisphere, states, "Those with authority . . . to make new settlements shall set aside a sufficient quantity of land for the ejido (commons) of the settlement and its growth according to the decree. Then they shall designate common pastures adjoining the ejido on which to graze the working oxen, horses, stock for slaughter, and the usual amount of other stock the settlers must have by ordinance, plus a good quantity more [land] that shall be the property of the council [emphasis added]."

Not surprisingly, much of the Spanish law cited by the Supreme Court to support its assertion that title to the common lands remained vested in the sovereign was ambiguous or completely misconstrued. Let me give an example. One of the most critical pieces of legal evidence cited by the Supreme Court to support its decision regarding the San Miguel del Vado claim was extracted from Elizondo's Práctica Universal Forense, an eighteenth century compilation of and commentary upon Spanish law. Claiming "The Spanish understanding of the prerequisite designation is well illustrated by the following passage," the decision cited Part II, Chapter XI, Section I. The citation in the Court's decision reads, "There is nothing whatever designated by law as belonging to towns, other than that which by royal privilege, custom or contract between man and man, is granted to them, so that although there be assigned to the towns at the time of their constitution a territorio and pertinencias, which may be common to all residents, without each one having the right to use them separately, it is a prerogative reserved to the princes to divide the terminus of the provinces and towns assigning to these the use and enjoyment, but the domain remaining in the sovereigns themselves." On the surface this seems to clearly underwrite the Court's opinion. However, the Court neglected to include the title of this chapter and the conclusion of the passage that it did cite, both of which contextualize the commentary and drastically alter its intent. In point of fact, Part II, Chapter XI is entitled "Of the Extraordinary [emphasis added] Recourses for the Alienation of Public Municipal Property" and the passage cited concludes, "but the domain remaining in the sovereigns themselves, to which follows their free disposition in cases of necessity or public utility."

The inclusion of these passages makes it abundantly clear that what is referred to in this section is the sovereign's right of eminent domain, a right which all governments, including the United States, maintain so that government can invade the sanctity of even the highest form of title, the fee. The existence of sovereignty under any form of government depends upon some reserved control both of persons and property. That right, as the title to the chapter makes explicit, is to be invoked only under "extraordinary" circumstances and in no way undermines normal title to municipal lands.

The most compelling evidence of the municipal ownership of the common lands, however, is the archival grant-related documents themselves. In the 1794 act of possession for the San Miguel del Vado grant, when the alcalde placed the petitioners in possession, he specifically noted that the pastures and watering places were to be held in common and that the possession was "without prejudice to the royal interest or that of any third party." This clearly indicates that the grant was severed from the royal domain. Moreover, the governor's decree stipulated that the alcalde was to execute the concession "so that they [the settlers] their children and successors, may have, hold and possess the same in the name of his majesty . . ." How could the authorities be any more specific in exactly what they were granting?

The archival documentation for many other community grants supports the same conclusion. The Las Trampas grant, for instance, instructs the alcalde to "give royal [emphasis added] and personal possession to all [that is held] in common and to each one in particular of their respective tracts . . ." Likewise, Governor Vélez Cachupín, who made the Las Trampas grant, specifically named and granted each head of household "one hundred and eighty varas of wheat growing land, with corresponding water, pastures, and watering places, entrances and exits . . . [emphasis added]"

The San Antonio de las Huertas grant states: "[The] chief Alcalde . . . will notify all the settlers that all the land they take possession of, with the exception of those that are cultivable, are commons for the generality of that settlement, and therefore that all the pasturage, woods and water are common for all. And the said chief Alcalde will issue to all the settlers a certificate of all, to the end that the same may be to them sufficient title . . .

The legal precedent set by this case resulted in the loss of at least 1.2 million acres of legitimate claims involving the San Miguel del Vado and other community grants. The government's endorsement of this and other injustices perpetrated by Reynolds and the Court was made explicit by the Attorney General's 1895 Annual Report to Congress in which he stated: "The clouds which vague claims under Spanish and Mexican grants have put upon titles in the Southwest are being rapidly cleared away. Mr. Reynolds' diligence and capacity appear from the showing that out of 5,039,592 acres claimed only 364,326 were allowed by the court . . ."

Finally, we must also consider the issue of due process regarding all land claims affected by the Sandoval decision. The reader will recall that the Supreme Court, in the case of San Miguel del Vado, conceded that the claimants had established equitable title to the commons through continuous occupation and use, but denied that it had the authority to confirm such title. It asserted in both the San Miguel del Vado and the San Joaquin adjudications that "It is for the political department [i.e., Congress] to deal with the equitable rights involved." In two similar cases both the cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque made land claims under the Spanish laws governing municipalities. Although they were denied by the Supreme Court using the same bogus precedent applied in Sandoval, because they were seats of political power with substantial financial resources, they were able to obtain Congressional confirmation of their claims through special acts of legislation. This type of relief was clearly denied to the community land grant claimants because of their poverty and lack of political clout.

Bear in mind that Article VIII of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed that "Mexicans now established in territories previously belonging to Mexico . . . shall be free to continue where they now reside . . . retaining the property which they possess in the said territories, without their being subjected, on this account, to any contribution, tax or charge whatever [emphasis added]." By the time patent was finally issued to the Board of Commissioners of the San Miguel del Vado land grant in January 1910, the claimants had, over the course of 53 years, been through three hearings before various surveyors general, two hearings before the Court of Private Land Claims, one hearing before the Supreme Court, and two surveys. How they paid for representation during these proceedings and for the two surveys, which ultimately reduced the grant from 315,300.80 acres to 5,207.73 acres, is unknown. Needless to say, however, they were in no position, either financially or politically, to seek redress of their legitimate grievances from Congress and thus were also denied due process.



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