More to Explore

Galisteo Land Grant

by Malcolm Ebright

Galisteo Pueblo was the largest of the several occupied pre-Revolt pueblos in the Galisteo Basin with a population of about 800 Tano Indians at the time of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. Other well known Galisteo Basin Pueblos included San Cristobal, San Marcos, and San Lazaro. Galisteo Indians, who participated in the revolt of 1680, killed local priests Father Juan Domingo de Vera and Juan Bernal, and then joined with other Galisteo Basin Pueblos in an attack on the villa of Santa Fe. The Tanos from Galisteo and the other neighboring pueblos attacked the Analco area south of the Santa Fe River "and soon occupied the houses [of the Tlaxcalan Indians] on the outskirts of the villa with the intent of besieging the Casas Reales (Palace of the Governors)." Galisteo's leader, simply referred to as Juan, was in the vanguard of this assault. He rode "on horseback, wearing a sash of red taffeta which was recognized as being from the missal of the convent of Galisteo and with harquebus, sword, dagger, leather jacket, and all the arms of the Spaniards.” The Spaniards under Governor Otermín asked Juan to negotiate with them, but when Juan appeared at the meeting, there was no room for negotiation. Juan and his associates brought "two crosses, one red and the other white, so that his lordship Governor Otermín might choose. The red signified war and the white that the Spaniards would abandon the kingdom." It soon became clear to Governor Otermín that there was no room for compromise; the Spaniards would have to abandon New Mexico as they were greatly outnumbered by the Pueblos.

After the Pueblos ejected the Spaniards from New Mexico, most of the inhabitants of Galisteo Pueblo and other nearby pueblos moved into the Governor's Palace and the Casas Reales in Santa Fe. During the years 1692-94 when the Spaniards returned to New Mexico under the leadership of Diego de Vargas, the Galisteo Indians were driven out of Santa Fe, establishing a new pueblo called San Cristóbal in the Santa Cruz Valley near present-day Española. In 1696, they were again dislocated by the Spaniards, this time to the valley of Chimayo to make room for new Hispanic settlers arriving from Mexico. In 1706 Governor Cuervo y Valdez re-established the Pueblo of Galisteo by moving the scattered Galisteo Indians back to their original pueblo. Deaths from Comanche raids and smallpox reduced the population so much, however, that sometime between 1782 and 1794, the remaining Galisteo survivors moved to the Pueblo of Santo Domingo.

The "abandoned" pueblo lands of Galisteo were so tempting to neighboring Hispanos that in February 1814 five of them, Felipe Sandoval, José Luis Lovato, Julian Lucero, Matias Sandoval, and Pedro Sandoval, for themselves and other associates, asked Governor Alberto Maynez for a grant of the "abandoned" Pueblo of Galisteo. The boundaries requested were: on the north, the Ojito de Galisteo; on the south, the Cañada de la Jara; on the east, the Loma Parda; and on the west, the Arroyo del Infierno (now called the Arroyo de los Angeles). The petitioners told Governor Maynez that the Galisteo Indians had abandoned their lands, and that the few remaining Tano Indians from Galisteo had scattered among the other nearby pueblos with no intention of returning to their old pueblo. (This "abandonment" was not verified by any of those remaining Galisteo Indians, however.) The petitioners said further that they needed the land to support their families and that their presence on the grant would provide protection against hostile Ute, Comanche, and Apache raids on Santa Fe and its surrounding settlements. This line of reasoning impressed Governor Maynez, who was charged with defending New Mexico and its capitol, Santa Fe. He therefore made the Galisteo grant on 14 February 1814, reserving grazing rights on the grant for the presidial horseherd and for the inhabitants of Santa Fe and its surrounding ranches.

The grantees did not receive copies of their grant documents for sometime, however, though they continually requested them. It was not until April 1822 that Governor Facundo Melgares confirmed the 1814 community grant, ordering Santa Fe alcalde Pedro Armendaris to place the grantees in possession and give each one a hijuela (deed subservient to another document). On 29 April 1822, Alcalde Pedro Armendaris went to Galisteo, met with fourteen of the original grantees, the heirs of two deceased original grantees, and three new settlers, placing them all in possession of their private tracts of land and giving them hijuelas evidencing title to both their private tracts and the common lands. Each hijuela required as conditions for maintaining title that the settlers keep the reservoir in good repair, fence their individual tracts (which averaged 100 by 1,000 varas), and build a house there while cultivating their farm plots. In addition, each settler was limited to grazing no more than 100 head of cattle on the common lands. The settlers placed in possession of the grant in 1822 included Rafael Lujan, María Nieves Mirabal, Matias Sandoval, José Antonio Alarid, José Baca, Rafael Sena, and Felipe Sandoval.

Not all of these individuals actually took possession of their tracts, however. In January of 1841 a group of eight individuals asked to be put in possession of portions of the Galisteo Grant, an indication that some of the private land there was still vacant. The act of possession provided that the new settlers, who were upstream from the earlier settlers, should not prejudice the people below in their water rights. The eight individuals who were put into possession in 1841 were: Ignacio Chavez, Francisco Chavez, Miguel Archuleta, María de Jesús Lujan, Joaquín Chavez, José Chavez, Nicanor Hidalgo, and José de la Cruz Chavez. Alcalde Anastacio Sandoval gave each of them 200 varas of land with an additional 200 varas given to Tomás Rafael Sais, a latecomer who also received a tract, for a total of 1400 varas among the nine new grantees. The 1841 settlers were subject to similar conditions as were the 1822 settlers: not to prejudice the water rights of the settlers below them, not to allow their animals to run loose to avoid damages to planted fields, to graze no more than 50 sheep and goats on the common lands, and to breed them for common use [and] for milk.

In 1843, another group of settlers asked the Ayuntamiento (municipal government) of Santa Fe for additional allotments situated at the place known as the Mesita Blanca. These allotments were bounded on the north by the drainage of San Cristóbal, on the south by the elevation called La Jara, and on the west by Gavilán Hill, (no boundary was given on the east). The eight new petitioners, who said they were already residing at Galisteo, were Luis Griego, Francisco Provencio, José Silva, Vicente Roybal, Juan Silva, Marcelino Ortiz, Florencio la Garza, and Benito Varela. The next day the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe recommended that the petition be granted, giving each of the petitioners 200 varas of land. Domingo Fernández, whose San Cristóbal grant bounded the Galisteo grant on the west, seems to have exerted some influence that had much to do with the approval of the 1843 allotments. The Ayuntamiento's report, written by Domingo Fernández as secretary, noted that the western boundary of the new allotments was "the tract of Domingo Fernández [and that the new allotments] were "without damage to the irrigating water of the said [Domingo Fernández'es] rancho, as it has preference by reason of the priority it enjoys." Diego Archuleta, the prefect of the jurisdiction within which the Galisteo grant was located, recommended that the allotments be made and the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe authorized one of its members, Antonio Sena, to place the petitioners in possession. The petitioners appeared at Galisteo early in the morning on 15 February, 1843. At 5:00 a.m., Alcalde Sena placed the men in possession of the land as they "walked over the tract, plucked up grass, cast stones, plucked off boughs, and shouted long live the Mexican nation." The alcalde also allotted 100 varas for the formation of a plaza and another 100 varas for the establishment of public gardens. The grantees were admonished, as were those before, to fence their private tracts to prevent damages from grazing animals; each was allowed to keep up to 100 head of goats and sheep on the common lands; they were required to erect houses on their private tracts; and to "make their gardens in unison, preventing thereby dissensions and lawsuits."

Domingo Fernández did not sign the 1843 Galisteo act of possession, but the language protecting his neighboring San Cristóbal grant on the east reads like he had drafted it himself. The document urged the grantees to "live ever grateful to Domingo Fernández, who owing to his being the oldest settler and the proprietor of the land and water of San Cristóbal, is entitled to the same and they are confined only to the surplus portions thereof." Further the settlers were admonished that they should entertain towards Fernandez true friendship and love him as a brother, for he had divided with them what was his own for their own benefit.

The Santa Fe Ayuntamiento found that the Galisteo settlement had been of great assistance in the protection of travelers and shepherds, had relieved the pressure on vacant land, and the fruitful crops raised at Galisteo had helped relieve the chronic food shortages suffered by the villa of Santa Fe and it environs. Accordingly the Ayuntamiento approved the new allotments and instructed the settlers to fence their farm tracts and maintain a water tank or reservoir large enough to hold all the water necessary for the irrigation of their crops. The new Galisteo settlers were advised by the Ayuntamiento that if they failed to continuously cultivate their land for any reason other than the "accidents of war," they would forfeit their rights.

By the time the Galisteo grant was submitted to the Surveyor General of New Mexico for confirmation, the neighboring Domingo Fernández (or San Cristóbal) grant had been purchased by E. W. Eaton. When Ignacio Chavez submitted a claim for the Galisteo grant in July 1871 for himself, the other grantees, and their heirs for an estimated 9,000 acres, Eaton objected. He claimed that the Galisteo grant conflicted with the so-called Domingo Fernández or San Cristobal grant, but when the case came up for hearing in December 1871, Eaton withdrew his objection and filed an agreement with the owners of the Galisteo grant specifying an agreed boundary line between the two grants.

In testimony before the Surveyor General, Agustín Duran vouched for the authenticity of the Galisteo grant and listed most of the early residents beginning in 1814, but testified that he "always understood it (Galisteo) to have been in existence since long before that year (1814)." Donaciano Vigil testified that as custodian of the Mexican archives, he was familiar with the signature of Alberto Maynez who he knew personally, and his signature was genuine. Vigil testified that he was familiar with Galisteo, about eight leagues south of Santa Fe and had known about it all of his life. He further testified that in 1790 or 1795 there was a detachment of troops stationed there until 1814.

Surveyor General, T. Rush Spencer, rejected the claim for the Galisteo grant on technical grounds that had no basis in Spanish and Mexican law. Most of the objections had to do with the adequacy of the documents submitted and the authority of the officials signing those documents.

In December of 1892 the Galisteo grantees tried again to get their grant confirmed. Luciano Chavez and the heirs of his fellow grantees filed suit in the Court of Private Land Claims for confirmation, based on the 1814 grant and subsequent proceedings. The boundaries claimed were: north, the brow of the mesa of the Ojito de Galisteo; south, the Arroyo de Jara; east, the Loma Parda; and west, the Arroyo de Infierno. At the trial, both the initial 1814 grant and the subsequent allotments were introduced. The government claimed that the original grant conflicted with the neighboring Domingo Fernández grant and that the claimants had never claimed any land beyond their individual allotments. In fact, the boundaries of the grant in the original grant documents covered a substantial amount of land beyond the allotments and the language in the hijuelas, regarding the number of cattle permitted each grantee, clearly pointed to the use of common lands for grazing.

When the case came to trial, the claimants introduced evidence regarding the original boundaries of the grant and were able to demonstrate that the grantees were in possession and cultivating the private tracts and grazing their stock on the common lands. The government introduced the grant papers for the Domingo Fernández grant and patents for several other tracts of land that conflicted with the Galisteo grant. The government contended that the grant documents were never intended to give the claimants any land beyond their original individual allotments. The Land Claims Court in its September 1894 decision confirmed only those original allotments which did not conflict with the neighboring Domingo Fernández grant. This did not include the allotments made in 1841 and 1843.

The land encompassed by the 1822 allotments was surveyed between the first and fourth of May 1897 by deputy surveyor Albert F. Easley and was found to contain 335 acres. Both sides objected to this survey and a new contract to re-survey the grant was awarded to deputy surveyor George H. Pradt. Pradt re-surveyed the Galisteo grant in October 1898 reducing its size to 260 acres. A patent based on this acreage was issued to the heirs of the original grantees on September 14, 1927.

The original Galisteo grant was a community grant that included substantial common lands that were later rejected by the Court of Private Land Claims. While this was a major injustice similar to the rejection of the common lands on the San Joaquín del Rio de Chama and the San Miguel del Bado grants, a greater injustice occurred when the original Native American occupants of the Galisteo Pueblo were displaced, then resettled, and finally forced to abandon their lands.


1591: Castaño de Sosa visited Galisteo and obtained maize, flour, beans and turkeys.

1680: Galisteo participates in the Pueblo Revolt; attacks the Analco section on the first day of the uprising.

1680-96: Galisteo Indians live in the modified Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe.

1692: Vargas re-conquers New Mexico.

1696: Galisteo Indians forced to move from Santa Fe to a new pueblo in the Santa Cruz Valley near Española called San Cristobal.

1696: The new pueblo of San Cristobal is forced to move to the valley of Chimayo to make room for new Hispanic settlers from Mexico.

1706: Governor Cuervo y Valdez re-establishes the original Galisteo Pueblo by moving the scattered Galisteo Indians back to their original pueblo.

1763-66: During the Abiquiú witchcraft trial a woman named María Jémez from Galisteo is accused of being a hechicera (witch) along with hundreds of others.

1782-94: Galisteo Indians leave their pueblo and move to Santo Domingo.

1795-1814: A detachment of presidial troops is stationed at Galisteo.

1814: The Galisteo community grant is made by Governor Alberto Maynez.

1822: First Act of Possession by Alcalde Pedro Armendaris as directed by Governor Facundo Melgares. Settlers received right to use the common lands; each could graze up to 100 head of cattle.

1841: Allotments made to eight new settlers included rights to use the common lands; each could graze up to 50 head of cattle.

1843: Allotments made at the Mesita Blanca to eight more settlers under the authority of the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe.

Sources Used:

Bowden, J. J. "Private Land Claims in the Southwest," 2:286-300.

Hodge, Frederick Webb; George P. Hammond; and Agapito Rey; eds. Fray Alonso de Benavides' Revised Memorial of 1634. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1945.

Kessell, Hendricks, and Dodge, Blood on the Boulders, 2: 678.

Nelson, N. C. Pueblo Ruins of the Galisteo Basin, New Mexico. New York: American Museum of National History, 1914.

Schroeder, Albert H. "Pueblos Abandoned in Historic Times." Handbook of North American Indians, 9:236-254, especially 247-48.

Spanish Archives of New Mexico. SANM I: 58, 133, 223, 398, 616, 892, 893, and 894.

US v. Sandoval, 167 US 278 (1897).