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Pueblo of Sandia Grant

By J. J. Bowden

The Pueblo of Sandia, a Tigua Pueblo located n the east bank of the Rio Grande about twelve miles north of Albuquerque, was already a thriving settlement when the Spaniards fist entered New Mexico and became the seat of a Franciscan mission early in the Seventeenth Century. When the Pueblo Revolt broke out, Sandia had a population of some three thousand souls. Its inhabitants participated in the rebellion as fiercely and unmercifully as any of the Pueblo Indians. They massacred most of the Spaniards living in the area and robbed and plundered their estancias.[1]

On November 5, 1681 Governor Antonio Otermin with a force of 242 mounted troopers marched out of El Paso del Norte in an attempt to reconquer New Mexico. After a forced march across the Jornado del Muerto, he caught the Isleta Indians by surprise and decisively defeated them in a short battle. Otermin then proceeded upstream. However, a number of Isletans escaped and warned the inhabitants of the northern pueblos of his approach. Upon arrival, he found the Pueblos of Alameda, Puarai and Sandia deserted and to prevent the Indians from reoccupying these pueblos he burned them. The threatening attitude of the Indians and inclement weather forced Otermin to return to El Paso del Norte after having penetrated only as far north as Sandia.[2] The destruc­tion of their pueblo prompted the inhabitants of Sandia to move to northern Arizona and settle among the Hopi Indians.[3]

The Pueblo was not reoccupied until spring of 1748. On April 3, 1748 Commissioner General Friar Jason Miguel Melchor petitioned Governor Joaquin Codallos y Rabal asking for permission to re‑establish the pueblo with the three hundred fifty Moqui Indians whom he had converted. Two clays later Codallos granted the reconquest and directed Lieutenant General Bernardo Antonio de Bustamante Tagle to assist Melchor in refounding the pueblo, designate its boundaries, and place the Indians in royal possession of the premises. Tagle, in the capacity of Acting Alcalde, went to Sandia on May 14, 174 and met with the Father Juan Jose Fernandez, who in the meantime, had been assigned to the pueblo as its priest, and also the land owners who adjoined the pueblo on the west, Antonio de Salazar, Jose Naramillo, and Salvador Jaramillo. It was noted that the western portion of the Indians’ league would conflict with their lands if its boundaries were to extend a league from the center of the pueblo. Therefore, it as agreed that the deficiency on the west would be compensated for by extending the boundaries in the other directions. At this point in the proceedings, the Indians pointed out that the reduction in the distance of their western boundary from the pueblo might cause them to suffer damages as a result of their livestock trespassing on their neighbor’s land. Whereupon, the three adjoining landowners granted the Indians the right to pasture their animals on their lands forever. Two days later Tagle met with the landowners who owned the land north and south of the grant and notified them of the grant.

Each of them stated that they had no objection to the resettlement of the pueblo and if the Indian league conflicted with their land they surrendered all their rights to such land. Finding no obstacle to the concession, Tagle then proceeded to survey the boundaries of the grant as follows:

… the lines being drawn toward the west to the el Norte River, which is the boundary there were only two lines of twenty Castillian varas each amounting in all to two hundred and forty varas; and, in order to complete what was lacking on the western side, I thought it necessary to add to or increase the league towards the north and south equally, in order that the adjoining Spanish grantees should not be damaged ‑ said two boundaries amounting to seven thousand three hundred and eighty Castillian varas, the league towards the west, being four thousand seven hundred and sixty varas less … The boundaries being on the north an old tower opposite the point of a Canon commonly called “De la Agua,” and on the Mayqua Hill opposite the spring of the Carrisito, and on the east the main ridge called Sandia, within which limits there are convenient pastures, timber, water, and watering places in abundance, to support large and small cattle and horses….

Following the completion of the survey, Tagle placed the 70 Indian families or a total of 350 persons in royal possession of the grant.[4]

The close proximity of so many non‑Indians to the Pueblo of Sandia and the desirability of the property has caused numerous land problems.[5] Under the Spanish regime, the Indians were wards of the crown and sales of Indian land had to be validated by the Viceroy or Governor. However, during the Mexican period, this policy was relaxed and many sales of land were made by the Indians covering portions of their land.

Six years after the United States acquired New Mexico, Congress provided the means whereby its treaty obligations could be fulfilled by creating the office of Surveyor General of New Mexico with authority to investigate and report upon private land claims in that territory.[6] Pursuant to the provisions of the act the representatives of the Pueblo of Sandia, on October 16, 1856 presented their papers and claim[7] to Surveyor General William Pelham for his consideration. Pelham, in his report date November 30, 1856, recommended the confirmation of the grant.[8] The Pueblo of Sandia Grant was among the seventeen pueblo grants confirmed, by Congress by the act of December 22, 1858.[9] The grant was surveyed in 1859 by Deputy Surveyor Rueben S. Clements or 24,034.27 acres and patented on November 1, 1864.[10]

In 1924, the Pueblo Land board Investigated the eighty-six non‑Indian claims which ware located within the grant. These claims covered a total of 3,262.57 acres and included a major portion of the Town of Bernalillo. A deed dated April 2, 1824, showed that Juan Angel Moqueno, Alcalde of the Pueblo of Sandia, donated[11] a large tract of land to sixty-seven inhabitants of the Town of Bernalillo for the support of their families. The Pueblo Land Board, after considering the claims extinguished the Indians’ title to only 44.77 acres on the ground that the Indians had no authority to convey their lands during the Mexican regime and, therefore, the 1824 deed was void.[12] A suit[13] was instituted in accordance with the Pueblo Land Board Act[14] to clear the Indians’ title, and, on December 16, 1929, the Court held that the non-Indian claimants had acquired 112.2. acres by perfecting limitation titles to the tracts they occupied.

1] Ayer, The Memorial of Fray Alonso de Benavides, 221 (1916).

[2] Hallenbeck, Land of the Conquistadores 171‑173 (1950).

[3] 2 Hodge, Handbook of the American Indians North of Mexico 429 (1962).

[4] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 36, 34th Cong., 3d Sess., 6‑12 (1857).

[5] Archive No. 532, 1198, 1298, 1359, 1360 and 1375 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[6] An Act to Establish the Office of Surveyor General of New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, to Grant Donations to Actual Settlers Therein, and For Other Purposes, Chap. 103, 10 Stat. 08 (1854).

[7] The Pueblo of Sandia Grant, No. P. (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[8] H.R. Exec. Doc. No. 36, 34th Cong., 3d Sess., 1‑2 (1857).

[9] An Act to Confirm the Claim of Certain Pueblos and Towns in the Territory of New Mexico, Chap. 5, 11 Stat. 374 (1858).

[10] The Pueblo of Sandia Grant, No P (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[11] 21 Deed Records 294 (Mss. Records of the Count, Clerk’s Office, Bernalillo, New Mexico).

[12] The Pueblo of Sandia Grant (Mss., Records of the Pueblo Land Board. General Services Administration, National Archives, Washington, D.C.).

[13] United States v. Abouselman; No. 1839 (Mss., Records of the United States District Clerk’s Office Santa Fe, New Mexico).

[14] The Pueblo Land Act, Ch. 331, 43 Stat. 636 (1924).