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Pueblo of Cochiti Grant

by J. J. Bowden

When Juan de Onate conquered New Mexico in July, 1598 he found the inhabitants of the Queres Pueblo of Cochiti peacefully settled on the west bank of the Rio Grande about fourteen miles north of the Pueblo of San Felipe with which it was closely associated. While the Catholic missionaries were active among the Pueblo Indians, Cochiti remained a visita of Santo Domingo until about 1667, when the mission of San Buenaventura was constructed for the training of its inhabitants, Thirteen years late the Cochiti Indians, who had been reduced to a condition of virtual slavery, joined the other pueblo tribes in driving the Spaniards from the province.[1]

Following his return to El Paso del Norte after his unsuccessful entrada into New Mexico, Governor Domingo Jironza Petriz de Cruzate interviewed Bartolome de Ojeda, an Indian whom he had captured during the battle at the Pueblo of Zia, concerning conditions at Cochiti. Upon being assured that the Cochitos had been “very much intimidated” by his campaign and would rot rebel in the future, Cruzate attempted to further guarantee their pacification by granting them, on September 2, 1689, the tract of land surrounding their pueblo which was bounded:

On the north, a point one league north of the pueblo; on the east, a point one league east of the pueblo; on the south, the point of a barren hill, near a stream of water running in the direction of the rising sun and which empties into the “Bravo River and on the west, a point one league west of the pueblo.[2]

Governor Diego do Vargas visited the Cochitenos, who were living at Cieneguilla, during the reconquest of Now Mexico in October, 1692. After some negotiations and promises of immunity, the Indians pledged their allegiances to the Crown and moved back to their old pueblo on the Rio Grande. However, when Vargas returned on his second entrada in the following year, they repudiated their promises, moved to a fortified position in the Portero Viejo and resisted his attempt to reestablish communications. The Portrero Viejo, a well-known landmark above the Canada de Cochiti, is an impregnable Gibralter‑type rock jutting out above the canyon at a height of seven hundred feet. On April 16, 1694, Vargas engaged Cochitenos in a short, but fierce battle in which he crushed their further resistance, and destroyed the pueblo that they had constructed at Portrero Viejo.[3]

The Pueblo Indians were living under conditions which had not changed substantially in three centuries when the United States acquired New Mexico in 1846. To protect the interests of these simple and sedentary people, Congress passed the Act of July 22, 1854,[4] which created the office of Surveyor General of New Mexico with, among others, the duty to investigate and report upon the nature of all pueblo land claims. To assist the Surveyor General in the performance of his duties the Commissioner of the General Land. Office, John Wilson, on August 21, 1854, issued a detailed set of instructions[5] in which he was advised:

It is obligatory on the Government of the United States to deal with the private land titles and the Pueblos precisely as Mexico would have done had the sovereignty not changed. We are bound to recognize all titles, as she would have done, to do that far, and no further. This is the principle which you will bear in mind in acting upon these important concerns.

The Cochitenos presented[6] their claim, based on the Cruzate grant, to the Surveyor General William Pelham on May 9, 1856. In his Annual Report[7] dated September 30, 1856, Pelham held that the Pueblo of Cochiti had received a grant from Spain and recommended its confirmation by Congress. Based upon Pelham’s favorable report, Congress by Act[8] approved December 22, 1858, confirmed the grant and directed the Commissioner of the General Land Office to cause the grant to be surveyed and patented.

Pursuant to the provision of the act, Deputy Surveyor John Garretson surveyed the grant in 1859 for 24,256.50 acres. Each of the boundaries, except the northern, were located about one league from the pueblo. The northern boundary, contrary to the call in the grant was located at the confluence of the Rio Chiquito and Rio Grande or about 1 3/4 leagues north of the pueblo. The grant was patented on November 1, 1864.[9]


[1] Lange, Cochiti, 8‑10 (1959); and & Whitney v United States, 167 U.S. 529 (1897).

[2] H. R. Exec. Doc, No. 1, 34th Cong., 3d Sess., 508 (1856). This document was proven to be spurious by Will N. Tipton in 1900.

[3] Prince, Spanish Mission Churches of New Mexico 146 (1915).             

[4] An act to establish the offices of Surveyor General of New Mexico, Kansas, and Nebraska, to grant donations to actual settlers therein and for other purposes, Chap. 103, 10 Stat. 308 (1854).

[5] S. Misc. Doc. No. 12, 42d Cong., 1st Sess., 6‑7 (1871).

[6] The Pueblo of Cochiti Grant, No. G (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[7] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 1, 34th Cong., 3d Sess., 411 (1856).

[8] An Act to confirm the land claims of certain pueblos and towns in the Territory of New Mexico, Chap. 5, 11 Stat. 374 (1858)

[9] The Pueblo of Cochiti Grant, No. C (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).