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“February 7”

by Reies López Tijerina

In the 1960s, Reies López Tijerina and his supporters organized the Alianza Federal de Mercedes (Federal Alliance of Land Grants), a grassroots protest group of Hispanic northern New Mexico villagers. The aim of the Alianza was to recover lands and water rights originally deeded to the members' ancestors by the Spanish crown or the Mexican government. In the passages below, Tijerina describes the passage of a resolution in the New Mexico state legislature calling on the US Congress to create a commission to adjudicate contested land claims.

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February 7

Hoping to finalize the resolution, I made my seventh trip to Santa Fe today. I brought warriors from throughout the state: Tierra Amarilla, Canjilon, Coyote, Española, Taos, Las Vegas, Tecolote, Chilili, Santa Rosa, Bernalillo, Cuba de Pecos, Belen de Socorro, San Antonito, San Miguel del Vado, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque. At 11:50 AM, the resolution was passed by a vote of 35 to 0. Senator Aubrey Dunn, who had opposed it, left the chamber just before the vote. We were very happy. Now the state of New Mexico is asking the US Congress to create a commission to investigate our land claims. The resolution was presented to the 31st Legislature, Second Session, by Samuel K. Vigil, Luis Romero, Richard Crabapple, Bobby Duran, Raymond Sanchez, A. Carroll, Luis Back, and others requesting the US Congress to create a Spanish Mexican Land Claims Commission.

Resolution No. 15 reads,

“Whereas New Mexico has a unique history of the acquisition of ownership of land due to the substantial number of Spanish and Mexican land grants that were an integral part of the colonization and growth of this area of the country and;

“Whereas various provisions of the treaties agreed upon by the parties concerned under prior sovereigns have not yet been fully implemented in the spirit of Article VI, Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States; and,

“Whereas Congress did establish an Indian Claims Commission which successfully adjudicated hundreds of disputed land possession questions; and,

“Whereas there still exist serious questions about prior ownership, particularly about certain public lands; and,

“Whereas many of these questions involve land in several of the United States; and,

“Whereas this Legislature has yet to receive a response from Congress on its petition for assistance on the question embodied in House Memorial 32 of the first session of the 31st Legislature;

Now therefore be it resolved by the Legislature of the State of New Mexico that the Congress of the United States is respectfully requested and urged to establish by appropriate legislation a Spanish Mexican Land Claims Commission to adjudicate and make conclusive determination, including where possible the restitution of public lands, rights and appurtenances thereto and the awarding of monetary damages for the taking of property, and the “‘For the past fifty years, the Anglo judges have illegally controlled the water of the Rio Grande.’” subsequent alienation of those equities, by other than honorable means from the various claimants and their heirs whose rights derive from the prior sovereigns of the Southwest; and, be it further resolved that copies of this resolution be sent to the presiding officers of each House of Congress.”

While we were celebrating this great victory, the Albuquerque Journal was editorializing against our water rights. For the past fifty years, the Anglo judges have illegally controlled the water of the Rio Grande. Finally, the people had organized and backed a legislative resolution to take control of the water. In November, we would see if the Anglos kept control of our people. The water is controlled by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.