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Pueblo of Cochiti Pasture Grant and Juan Baca Grant

By: J.J. Bowden

The Pueblo of Cochiti, a body corporate, filed suit[1] against the United States in the Court of Private Land Claims on February 27, 1893, seeking the confirmation of two grants, alleged to contain together about 20,000 acres. The first grant allegedly had been made to the plaintiff for pasturage purpose. In support of its claim to this tract, the pueblo filed the testimonio of the grant. It showed that the officials of the pueblo, through Felipe Tafoya, a lawyer who resided in Santa Fe, petitioned Governor Tomas Velez Cachupin asking for grant in addition to its “league” on which to pasture its livestock. Cachupin, on July 16, 1766, directed the Alcalde of the Queres Nation to report to him on the merits of the petition. In compliance with the governor’s request, the alcalde went to Cochiti and inspected the lands which the Indians desired. He described the tract as being bounded:

On the north, by the confluence of the Rio Chiquito and the Rio Grande, which was located about a league north of the north boundary of the pueblo league; on the east, the Rio Grande; on the south, the north boundary of the pueblo league; and on the south by the Ojo Coyote.

He noted that the land was not suitable for agricultural purposes, and the pueblo needed the grant since it had no place to pasture its livestock, which was abundant. He also found that the issuance of the grant would not injure any third party. As a result of this favorable report, Cachupin, on August 6, 1766, granted the pueblo for grazing purposes, the following described tract:

The boundaries from north to south, from the Rio Chiquito along the brow, center of the league, it reaches on the Pinon Hill, it continues along the Vallecito Road, it goes down Peralta, it goes up the same Vallecito Road as far as the Rito de Jara, it goes down all along the Canada of the Rito de Jara, the boundary goes up along the road from Cochiti towards Jemez, it goes down the Canada Coriz, as far as the east boundary, it continues to the west, it passes on the other bank of the river, it goes upon the elevation of the hills on the little Penasco table land, it is the boundary, it continues as far as the Piedra Parada, it is the boundary, it continues as far as the old Pueblo of La Majada, it continues as far as the western boundary at the little coyote spring, it continues, it goes up onto the table land as far as (one word illegible), the boundary continues as far as Cerro Majino, the boundary continues to the Cerro Pañil, as they call it, the boundary goes down all along the brow of the hill as far as the Rocillo slope, the boundary goes down the Del Norte River as far as the Rio Chiquito, the northern boundary, embraced within the center boundaries of this grant.[2]

Cachupin stated that the concession carried the same legitimate title as a royal grant and that the inhabitants of the pueblo were not to be “molested by any Spanish citizen taking their stock thereupon, deeming the pasturage to be common.” He also directed the alcalde to deliver royal possession of the grants to the Indians. The last instrument in the testimonio is a fragment of what appears to be an Act of Possession which shows that the alcalde in company with the authorities of the pueblo and the citizens of the Canada de Cochiti and the “lieutenant...” At this point the document comes to an abrupt end. The second grant had been made to Juana Baca by Governor Pedro Rodriguez Cubero on February 20, 1703, and embraced all the land within the following boundaries:

On the north, the lands of the Pueblo of Cochiti; on the east, the Rio Grande; on the south, the lands of the Pueblo of Santo Domingo; and on the west, the Canada that comes down from the ranch of Santiago Coris, which crosses the Cochiti Zia road.

Baca sold all of her interest in the grant to the inhabitants of the Pueblo of Cochiti in 1722. [3]

On June 23, 1898, the government filed a demurrer pointing out that the plaintiff was seeking the confirmation of two independent grants made at different times, to different parties, and covering different lands, and as such should have been prosecuted separately. It also contended that the pasture grant, which merely gave the Indians a license to graze their livestock upon the land, had been revoked when the territory was ceded to the United States. Continuing, it averred that the petition, insofar as it pertained to the Juana Baca Grant, was defective in that it failed to set forth the particulars concerning the issuance of that grant. The demurrer was argued on June 23, 1898, and the court, four days later, announced its decision[4] sustaining the demurrer and giving the plaintiff until the September term of court to amend its petition. The court held that the grant was identical to the pasture grant involved in the Pueblo of Zia, Santa Ana and Jemez case,[5] which the Supreme Court held terminated with the transfer of jurisdiction over New Mexico to the United States. In connection with the Juana Baca Grant, it held that the plaintiff had failed to plead the pertinent facts concerning the grant which were required by law. The government on October 4, 1898, called the court’s attention to the fact that the plaintiff had failed to amend its petition. Whereupon, the court rejected the grant.[6]

[1] Pueblo of Cochiti v. United States, No. 172 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] The above described tract has not been depicted on the county map because the plat filed with the claim is missing, and the use of the Spanish names of many of the natural objects has not been perpetuated on the U.S.G.S. and other modern maps. Thus, its location cannot be ascertained without additional information. However, it appears that it covers land north, south, and west of the original pueblo league.

[3] Archive No. 1343 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[4] 4 Journal 1 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[5] Pueblo of Zia v. United. States, 168 U.S. 198 (1897).

[6] 4 Journal 34 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).