The Cruzate Grants were purported created in 1689 by New Mexico’s Governor Domingo Jironza Petris de Cruzate to the Pueblos of New Mexico.
Why am I writing a book about them? Simply put, the story behind the creation and appearance of these grants has perplexed historians and lawyers for nearly 160 years. Why only 160 years? They were FORGED in the 1840s or 1850s.
By whom? For what purpose? That’s going to be part of my upcoming book!
What are grants anyway?
New Mexico, first settled by American Indians thousands of years ago, was claimed and conquered by the Spanish in the 1540s and again in 1598 when Don Juan de Oñate founded a permanent settlement north of Santa Fe. Because according to European legal tradition, when a certain country claimed or conquered lands, it belonged to the Crown. As a result, land could only be owned through a donation–or grant–by the Crown, or one of his agents.
So why did they get these grants?
After nearly 80 years of Spanish attempts to eliminate Pueblo Indian religions and demands upon Indian villages on goods and services, and after many years of a severe drought, the Pueblo Indians rose up in rebellion and forcibly removed the Spanish from their homelands. For 12 years the Spanish lived in the El Paso del Rio de Norte (part of New Mexico, Texas did not exist) area and the pueblos attempted to return to their traditional ways.
During that time, the governor purportedly granted the Pueblo Indians their land officially.
Doesn’t stack up, does it? Why would a governor grant lands in an area he didn’t control? Good question! I will answer that in my book–as well as why these documents continue to resurface in land claims over 150 year later.
But you said they were forgeries? Why?
The Spanish kept triplicate copies of everything. And these documents never appeared in the documentary record until the 1850s after the US took over New Mexico (and half of all of Mexico!). The US sent Surveyor General William Pelham to figure out who owned what lands. Why? Don’t forget, the survey system existed in the US (plat maps, township/range, and all that. The same system did not exist in French or Spanish regions. Therefore, land ownership sometimes created confusion. He told everyone in New Mexico to bring in their land grants so he could send them to Congress for confirmation and acquire a patent to their lands (read: US recognition of their land claim). During this period, he collected several Cruzate grants. He did not question their validity, but rather hastened them through the process and the pueblos had confirmed and patented claims to their lands.
Unfortunately, the Court of Private Land Claims in the 1890s threw the documents out as forgeries. Indeed, they are fraudulent for many reasons.
Now what!? The pueblos spent the next 100+ years fighting to retain claims to their lands. AND, the Cruzate grants periodically come up in federal court proceedings.
I want to resolve this issue, once and for all. Who wrote them, when, and why!? More importantly, I want to explore the interpersonal relationships between pueblo Indians and their various non-Indian counterparts (Spanish, Mexican, Anglo-American) through a study of personal correspondence–as well as legal stuff–to explore the machinations behind the adjudication of these grants. So many individuals and so many fingers in the pie, each trying to grab as much as they can–or is that the story? No! Several non-Indians, Anglo-Americans and Hispanics alike, assisted pueblo Indians in their quest to defend, maintain, and even regain portions of their homelands they had lost.
Using a few pueblos as examples (Acoma, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Sandia), I will explore this history from a humanistic–not a legalistic–perspective. And maybe in the meantime I will discover the secret behind the 328 year old mystery of who wrote the Cruzate grants, when, and why!
Wish me luck!