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Land Grant Country

It was a crisp October morning with a tang of autumn in the air. A bright sun kept breaking through the wispy clouds, giving promise of one of those beautiful fall days for which New Mexico is famous. All in all, it was an exciting kind of morning when you think it's a good day to be alive.

Before the morning was over, Ranger Walter Taylor had all the excitement he wanted for awhile. He knew that he was in deep trouble and that he might not even be alive to see the setting sun.

This was October 22, 1966, the day the Alianza Federal de Mercedes (an organization which included two or three hundred Spanish-speaking northern New Mexicans, including descendants of Spanish land grant heirs) had let it be known they planned a take-over of Carson National Forest lands—which they claimed were once part of a community land grant.

The organization led by Reies Tijerina, a militant ex-preacher, was seeking to stir up support for reopening land grant litigation, claiming community lands were taken over for public domain or obtained by fraud by private owners. The Alianza proposed to establish headquarters at Echo Amphitheater—a Forest Service picnic ground alongside U. S. 84, 65 miles north of Santa Fe.

This beautiful camp and picnic site, with its magnificent setting against the cream and pink colored cliffs where picnicking youngsters and their parents have for years been trying out their voices against the pulsating echoes, was to be their location of a new city-state, New Pueblo Republic of San Joaquin del Rio de Chama.

Since Echo Amphitheater is a public campground, the Forest Service had no intention of keeping anyone out, even people claiming title to the land. The visitors, however, were subject to the recreation-use fee.

The Forest Service assigned three Rangers to the campground: Walter Taylor, of Taos; Philip Smith, of Canjilon, and Chris Zamora from the Cibola National Forest. A few carloads of people arrived early, but when told they would have to pay the $1.00-a-day fee, they parked outside, along the highway.

State Police Officer Martin Vigil* was on duty outside the Forest boundary. He lectured the early visitors, announcing that he would not stand for any trouble. He told them the Forest Rangers were in charge inside the campground, and he was in charge outside. There was no trouble from this group.

*Now Chief of State Police.

Along about 10:30, a motorcade of cars approached Echo Amphitheater. Ranger Taylor was standing on one side of the cattle guard entrance to the grounds, Ranger Smith on the other. Turning into the campground, drivers sounded their horns, ignored the stop signs and the Rangers, then put on speed and headed through the gateway. The Rangers blocked the entrance, but had to jump out of the way or be knocked down. Probably 40 cars and trucks passed them as they stood helpless alongside the cattle guard. The cars pushed into parking areas, and a myriad of men, women and children erupted from the cars—laughing, talking, shouting.

Ranger Taylor remembered that he had left his pickup unlocked. He was afraid it might be looted if the crowd got out of hand. Among other things, a personal hand gun he usually carried in the car was lying on the seat under his jacket. He didn't want that to fall into someone's hands in this explosive situation, so he ran to the pickup. He had locked the door on the left side and was locking the door on the right side when Cristobal Tijerina, brother of the leader, came up to him and grabbed him by the necktie.

"Shut up," Cristobal Tijerina told the Ranger.

Ranger Taylor hadn't yet said a word.

"Don't talk to me like that," Taylor then told him.

"Shut up you son of a bitch," Tijerina said. "You're under arrest."

If Cristobal was trying to provoke the Ranger, he had picked the right way to do it. Taylor clenched his fist and was just starting a swing when he was grabbed from behind. Hands clutched his arms, pulled at his shirt. There were shouts from men and women. . . . Get him. . . . kill him. . . .

Taylor realized by now he had made a mistake in preparing to take a swing at Cristobal. Rifles and shotguns had made their appearance in the crowd. "I thought I was a dead man," Taylor related later. "I feel sure if I had hit him, someone would have shot me."

The men around him half dragged, half lifted him off his feet to take him toward a picnic table.

Ranger Smith, seeing the melee, rushed to help Taylor. He was grabbed, too and up-ended and then practically carried along behind Taylor to the picnic table. At the table was Jerry Noll, one of the Alianza leaders who had once proclaimed himself "King of the Indies." He was hurriedly setting up court for the new city-state of San Joaquin.

Back in the crowd someone had grabbed Ranger Chris Zamora. "Get your dirty hands off me," Zamora said in Spanish, pushing his "captor" away.

"Leave him alone," a voice said, "He's one of ours." Being of Spanish extraction was the only "passport" needed to the Pueblo of San Joaquin on this day.

At the picnic table, "Judge" Jerry Noll was asking, "What are these men charged with?"

"Wilful trespassing."

"How about public nuisance?" the "judge" asked.

"Public nuisance, too."

About this time, Reies Tijerina, leader of the Alianza, got up on the picnic table bench to look over the crowd and the arrested men.

State Police Captain Martin Vigil came up to him, "Why are you holding these men?" Captain Vigil asked.

"Publicity," was the answer.

"If you're through with them, then let them go."

With Captain Vigil on hand to back them up, Rangers Taylor and Smith started to walk away. "Judge" Noll was sentencing them, but the Rangers weren't paying any attention to him.

". . . . eleven months and 21 days—and $500 fine—all suspended on condition you leave the Pueblo and stay away."

Taylor and Smith got out their notebooks and started to write down the license numbers of cars parked in the area.

"If you do that we'll have to arrest you again," Tijerina told them.

All this time TV and news cameras had been grinding away, recording the scene of the take-over of the Forest. People were milling around and setting up camp.

The Rangers, accompanied by Captain Vigil, Tijerina, and a group of Alianza "deputies" and followers, walked over to their pickups. "You can't take them," Tijerina told them. "They're impounded."

"Their personal things," Captain Vigil said.

Tijerina agreed they could take their personal belongings.

Taylor unlocked the door and reached in to get his coat and gun from the seat. He tried to keep the gun hidden under the coat and slide it out so he could shove it down inside his belt.

"As luck would have it," Taylor recounted later, "it slipped out of my hands and down to the ground. A lot of people seemed to make a grab for it and got their hands on it, but I got my hand on the butt and hung on."

They were going to take the gun from Taylor, but Captain Vigil reminded Tijerina that the Rangers could have their personal articles. The gun was a personal one.

By this time Taylor's anger was at the boiling point. A soft voice said in a whisper from behind him, "Take it easy. Take it easy."

It was Jim Evans, investigations officer of the Forest Service.

"He was wearing a black raincoat type of coat," Taylor explained, "and they must have taken him for a priest. They never bothered him and he roamed all over the place, just as Chris Zamora did."

Some of the Alianza members even tried to talk Zamora into joining forces with them.

For the rest of the day, the Rangers remained outside the campground, observing from a distance what was happening inside. During the afternoon, Tijerina stood on a picnic table and made a fiery speech in Spanish to his followers.

Taylor, who grew up in Western Colorado and speaks Spanish, heard him declaim that "Castro has what he has because he has guts. Castro is getting every gringo out of Cuba, and we can do it here."

The blue flag of the Alianza, with its gold lettering proclaiming the Pueblo of San Joaquin was raised above the campground, and cardboard signs put over the Echo Amphitheater marker.

The Forest Service, fearing nightfall might bring violence, sent out a call for more Rangers, and they set up headquarters at Ghost Ranch Museum. By 8 o'clock, the Pueblo of San Joaquin was as quiet as any other village in northern New Mexico, and the Rangers went home.

Forest Service officials swore out warrants for Reies Tijerina, Ezequiel Dominguez and Alfonso Chavez, charging them with assaulting the two Forest Rangers and conversion of government property. They also applied to the Federal Court for an injunction restraining the Alianza membership from further occupation of the campground. After a hearing the injunction was issued and the camp broke up. The warrants against the five men were served and the men and their cause were headed for the courts.

Tijerina had claimed in press interviews that he was eager to get the land claims into the courts. "Our intention is to go to the Supreme Court."

The Forest Service issued a news release on October 29, 1966, stating that there was no Rio de Chama land grant. It was explained that the land of the original grant as confirmed by the courts is held under private ownership and is surrounded by National Forest.

The curtain came down—temporarily—on this first act in what has become a long drawn-out drama tinged with tragic overtones.

The basis for the plot of this modern drama goes back into history of the last couple of centuries. Millions of acres of New Mexico land had been granted by Spain and later by Mexico to individuals and to groups of colonists to establish settlements. One of these was the Cañon de Chama Grant, which had been given to 39 families who settled in the Chama Valley.

Confusion over the boundaries of this and other grants and also over the question of whether community lands as well as private lands were sold by heirs, and whether the United States government took over disputed lands for public domain, has kept the land grant issue alive for a hundred years.

After the American occupation of New Mexico when disputes began to arise over land grants, the Federal government undertook surveys of grants. In the 1870's, a surveyor general estimated the Cañon de Chama grant at 184,320 acres. Congress took no action on this, and it was re-surveyed in 1878. This survey estimated the grant at 472,000 acres. Again no action was taken by Congress to confirm the grant. In 1882, Congressman Hazelton introduced a resolution to confirm the grant, but the resolution was buried under hours of debate on technical questions in regard to grants, and again no confirming action was taken. In 1885, George W. Julian was appointed Surveyor General and sent to New Mexico to straighten out the land claims of various individuals and groups.

As an early history of New Mexico related, "The Territory was greatly wrought up in 1883, 1884, and 1885 over the extensive fraudulent operations in land in New Mexico. The matter was investigated under direction of Congress and the report of the special agents who performed the work showed that the registrar of the Land Office had entered into collusion with a ring of capitalists to get possession of vast areas of public land in the Territory by fraudulent means."

Surveyor-General Julian was aghast at the idea that the Cañon de Chama Grant was surveyed to include 472,000 acres, contending that the lands involved were located only within the canyon as the name implied.

In the meantime, a British cattle syndicate had obtained possession. A newspaper account (Santa Fe New Mexican) in January 1887, said the English capitalists had paid $500,000 for 300,000 acres of land. When the U. S. Court of Land Claims was organized in 1891, the syndicate entered a claim for 472,000 acres. The Court confirmed only 1,422 acres and a patent was finally issued in 1905 in the name of the original grantees and the British syndicate, the Rio Arriba Land and Cattle Co. which passed into the possession of T. D. Burns of Tierra Amarilla, who had also purchased several thousand acres of the Manuel Martinez grant in Rio Arriba County.

When the Court of Private Land Claims finished its work after 13 years of hearings, it had confirmed only 2,051,526 acres of the 35,491,020 acres claimed in 301 cases. All lands not confirmed became public domain, and when the National Forests were established, they were created from public domain lands. The Carson National Forest, which encompasses lands that were claimed by the Cañon de Chama heirs, was established in 1908, taking in the Taos National Forest, established as Forest Reserve in 1906, and part of the Jemez National Forest, established as Forest Reserve in 1903.

The cattle firm which had bought Cañon de Chama appealed the Private Land Claims Court decision to the Supreme Court, contending the Claims Court allotment covered only the individual farming acreages and not the community lands. But the Supreme Court in one of its land claim decisions had ruled that common lands remained with the sovereign and could not be allocated to settlers.

In 1944, Congressman Antonio M. Fernandez introduced a bill in Congress to return to living heirs of the original grantees of the Cañnon de Chama grant Federal lands within the boundaries of the grant as surveyed in 1878. The Department of Agriculture made a study of the grant legal history for the Committee of Public Lands of the House of Representatives.

In its report, the Department, over the signature of Charles F. Brannan, Assistant Secretary, stated that "while the Department believes that equity should be done in all cases, it is unable to find adequate equitable justification for the conveyance of even a limited interest in so large an acreage of publicly owned land, especially where such conveyance in all probability would quite adversely affect a considerable number of local and dependent people and a wide range of more remote state and national interests. Accordingly, it recommends that the bill, H. R. 4797, be not enacted."

The report to the Committee summed up its findings as follows:

In essence the record may be summarized as follows: In 1806 Francisco Salazar on behalf of himself, his two brothers and 28 other persons, petitioned the Governor of the territory to grant them lands for purposes of residence. On July 6, 1806 the Governor directed the proper Alcalde to make personal inspection of the land mentioned and make a report. On the 14th of the same month the Alcalde submitted his report in which he stated he had visited and personally examined a spot called the Chama River Canyon "over all of which I passed with the greatest care and observation." He reported that the land was sufficient to care for the 31 families applying for it and land for the increase they may have in the way of children and sons-in-law. Later, on March 1, 1809, the Alcalde reported that he had proceeded to the Chama River Canyon, accompanied by the 25 settlers, to which there were added 14 other citizens without land, and has assigned them certain lots or tracts.

The time expended by the Alcalde in making the necessary examinations, the small number of families involved, the restrictions which the Governor had placed upon the quantity of land to be allotted to each family, and the descriptions of the boundaries reported by the Alcalde, all showed the area covered by the Grant to have been of very limited extent. At one point, the Surveyor General expressed the opinion that the area did not exceed four miles; the further opinion of the Surveyor General being that the Alcalde's report could not be construed to make the granted tract more than about three leagues square or the equivalent of about 40,000 acres in round numbers.

In 1878, a survey of the grant was made under direction issued in 1872 by Surveyor-General Proudfit. The honesty, integrity, and validity of that survey later were challenged by a succeeding Surveyor-General, Julian, in 1886, in the strongest terms, as will be noted by reference to his report. As was too frequently the custom in that period the surveyor, instead of accepting the nearby landmarks described in the original grant, adopted more remote landmarks of similar name; the result being that the survey encompassed an area of 472,736.95 acres, or more than 10 times the maximum area that could be derived by the most liberal interpretation of the reports of the Alcalde upon which the grant originally was based. Apparently the protests of the Surveyor-General sufficed to prevent issuance of patent to the claimants based upon the survey made in May, 1878, by Stephen C. McElroy U. S. Deputy Surveyor and approved September 7, 1878 by Henry M. Atkinson, U. S. Surveyor-General.

Because of the number of cases of similar character then commanding attention, Congress by the Act of March 3, 1891 (26 stat. 854) established the Court of Private Land Claims. The specific function of that Court was to adjudicate claims to lands of the United States asserted or based upon prior grants by the governments of Spain or Mexico. By decree of September 29, 1894, in a case entitled "The Rio Arriba Land and Cattle Company (Limited) vs. the United States of America," the Court found for the petitioners "to the extent of the lands lying in the Canyon del Rio de Chama which were first apportioned among the settlers and no more"; the same thereby being confirmed to the heirs and legal representatives of the 39 persons specifically named in the decree. The names in the decree in large part correspond to those set forth in H. R. 4797, but that bill includes three parties not named in the decree and excludes three parties so named.

Upon entering of the above mentioned decree it became the function of the Surveyor-General to define the boundaries of the area which by the decree was confirmed to the petitioners. By letter of January 12, 1898 addressed to the Commissioner of the General Land office, the Surveyor General protested that the decree was faulty in that the boundaries therein set forth were entirely insufficient and wholly indefinite. He accordingly recommended that the decree be returned to the Court for such corrections as would allow his office to execute a survey upon the ground with certainty.

In consequence, the Court of Private Land Claims later executed an amendatory or supplementary decree in which the lands confirmed to the petitioners were more specifically described. The understanding of this Department is that the area finally surveyed and patented as the Rio de Chama Grant, consisting of 1,422.62 acres, is the area precisely described by the Court of Private Land Claims in its supplementary or amendatory decrees.

By Section 9 of the Act of March 3, 1891, provision was made for the right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, such appeal to be taken within six months from date of decision of the Court of Private Land Claims. Accordingly, the Court of Private Land Claims, in its decree of September 29, 1894, specifically ordered that the petitioner be and thereby was allowed an appeal from the decision and decree of that Court to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court on May 24, 1897 affirmed the decision of the Court of Private Land Claims. See Rio Arriba Land and Cattle Co. vs. United States (167 U. S. 298).

The Bill H. R. 4797 provides for the conveyance of title to the now living heirs of the grantees named in the bill. It should, however, be noted that the suit before the Court of Private Land Claims was in the name of Rio Arriba Land and Cattle Company, Limited, and the fact that the Court recognized that corporation as the legal plaintiff would indicate that the Corporation had succeeded to all rights in the property at some time prior to September 29, 1894. If the heirs of the original grantees had in fact disposed of all interests in the grant, an Act of Congress which would now vest such heirs with a right to the conveyance of title apparently would ignore the transfers of right or interest which apparently had occurred.

It seems evident the establishment of complete title to the lands to which H. R. 4797 would apply, hitherto could have been accomplished only under the provisions of the Act of March 3, 1891, (26 Stat. 854). The seventh provision of section 13 of the Act seems specifically to provide a maximum limitation of 11 square leagues for any claims under the Act. A Spanish league is 2 miles 48-1/2 chains; a square league thus containing approximately 7-1/2 square miles. Eleven leagues, therefore, would amount to about 80 square miles or about 51,000 acres; consequently, the bill, if enacted, would apply to almost ten times the maximum area prescribed by Section 13 of the Act of March 13, 1891.

The big Manuel Martinez land grant in Rio Arriba county, which was sold and re-sold and its more than half million acres divided into many ranches, has triggered numerous court battles and violent acts in Rio Arriba County for the last 80 years.

Descendants of heirs of the Martinez family and other settlers had claimed community lands in the grant and were in and out of court over the years. Organized as the Corporation de Abiquiu in the 1940's, they sought to dispossess then-current owners and regain the lands but lost out in Federal Court. Then, in a hearing in state district court in October, 1964, Judge Paul Tackett stripped the Corporation of Abiquiu of all legality in connection with the Tierra Amarilla Grant.

So, the Alianza, which had been newly organized, began then to unite land grant claimants from the Abiquiu Corporation and from among the Cañon de Chama heirs, as well as any others who claimed any family connection with old Spanish or Mexican land grants.

The Alianza began to beat the propaganda drums to make its cause known. Publicity campaigns were undertaken, using such phrases as "U.S.A. is Trespassing in New Mexico" and "Trespassers Must Get out of New Mexico." Even a march to the capitol from Albuquerque was staged to present a petition to Governor Campbell demanding that he investigate their land claims.

The only gains made by Reies Tijerina and his Alianza in the next 18 months were publicity gains. Tijerina and his Alianza were much in the news. Then in October, 1966, the Alianza decided to take over the lands they could not get through legal channels. The first confrontation was a quiet one. On the weekend of October 15, about 300 or more members moved into the Echo Amphitheater to establish what they said was the ancient settlement of San Joaquin. Don Seaman, Supervisor of the Carson National Forest, announced the Alianza camp was to be regarded merely as "visitors." Next day the campers were gone.

But two days later the Alianza sent a delegation and a process server to the office of Regional Forester William D. Hurst with papers signed by Reies Tijerina proclaiming the establishing of the Pueblo San Joaquin del Rio Chama, and serving notice it was taking over the old grant lands.

The Regional Forester declined to accept the papers, and he told Tijerina and the others who had come to his office that the property they claimed belonged to the United States of America, and "I will not under any condition allow it to be claimed by an organization or group."

Tijerina and his delegation left the Forest Service office to plan their next step—and this was the confrontation at Echo Amphitheater on October 22 when Rangers Taylor and Smith were manhandled.

Trial for the five who were arrested was still to be a year off. In the meantime the Alianza leaders were having problems with State Police and District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez, of Santa Fe, who issued warrants for a number of the membership charging unlawful assembly growing out of a convention at Coyote, June 3. Then on June 5, 1967 when arraignments were to be held in Tierra Amarilla, an armed group of Alianza members raided the court house. A state policeman was shot, the sheriff was disarmed, two of his deputies were wounded, a United Press International reporter and a deputy sheriff were kidnapped and held temporarily as hostages, and officials were rounded up and held prisoner in the county commission chamber. State Police cars were riddled with bullets; windows in the court house were broken. State Police got their second wind and began to make arrests as National Guardsmen were called in to keep order. It was weeks before all of the 14 charged had finally been arrested, including leader Reies Tijerina and his brother Cristobal.

The five who had been arrested at Echo Amphitheater went to trial in Federal court in Las Cruces in November, 1967. All five were found guilty on the charges of assaulting the Forest Rangers.

Reies Tijerina and Cristobal Tijerina were each sentenced to two years in prison. Jerry Noll, the "King of the Indies," who had presided over the "trial" of the Rangers at Echo Amphitheater, was sentenced to three years. "I am immune to prosecution in foreign courts," Noll announced. Esequiel Dominguez and Alfonso Chavez were sentenced to 60 days in jail.

The Alianza attorneys immediately announced appeals to the U. S. Circuit Court and the men were released on bond.

The next scene in this ill-omened drama shifted again to Tierra Amarilla where in early January, 1968, Deputy Sheriff Eulogio Salazar was murdered by being beaten over the head. His car was then run off the road into a 40-foot deep arroyo. Salazar was the deputy who had been shot in the cheek during the Tierra Amarilla raid. The mystery of Salazar's murder remains unsolved.

When he came to trial in district court on the State charges growing out of the raid, Tijerina claimed the raid was merely an attempt to make a citizen's arrest of District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez. He claimed to have taken no personal part in any of the shooting or violence. The jury believed him and brought in a verdict of not guilty.

Tijerina again made headlines when he went to Washington during the hearing on the appointment of Warren Burger as chief justice of the Supreme Court. Tijerina announced he would make a citizen's arrest of Burger. He did not get near Burger, but he did get the publicity which has seemed so important to the fiery Alianza leader in his effort to keep his cause alive. On Saturday, June 8, he also attempted to make a citizen's arrest of Governor David Cargo and of Norris Bradbury, director of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, but was unable to locate either one. The next act took place next day in the Santa Fe National Forest, near the village of Coyote, a dozen miles from U. S. 84 which is a boundary for parts of the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests. In early June, 1969, members of Tijerina's Alianza had been encamped near Coyote for several days.

James H. Evans, investigations officer of the Forest Service Regional Office, was at the Coyote Ranger Station on June 8 and heard over the State Police radio that a Forest Service sign had been set on fire at Capulin, nine miles west of Coyote. Evans called U. S. Attorney Victor Ortega to ask his advice on how to proceed. The U. S. Attorney advised him not to make any arrests at that time but to try to identify the sign burners. Later, Evans was informed that a crowd was gathering around a Forest Service sign on the highway, a couple hundred yards below the Coyote Ranger Station and preparing to burn the sign.

This time Evans went down with the intention of making arrests. State Police Officer Robert Gonzales later testified that he saw a woman dressed in yellow slacks and flowered blouse put brush and twigs around the Forest Service sign. (She was later identified as Mrs. Tijerina.)

The sign erupted in flames and Evans, a carbine in his right hand, walked over to Tijerina. He was backed up by two State Police investigators, Robert Gilliland and Jack Johnson.

"I'm Jim Evans," he told the Alianza leader. "I'm a Federal officer. You're under arrest for destruction of government property."

"You," Tijerina replied, "are under arrest for conspiracy against the poor."

The crowd moved in between the two men, and Tijerina walked hurriedly to his car and pulled out a carbine. The crowd scattered, and Evans stepped behind an automobile. Evans saw Tijerina put the rifle to his shoulder and aim it directly at him.

"Drop it or I'll kill you," he shouted to Tijerina. When Tijerina hesitated, Evans called out, again, "Drop it or you're a dead man!"

Tijerina rested his carbine against his car and the State Police officers then moved in and took him into custody.

Meanwhile, State Police had arrested Mrs. Tijerina.

The Associated Press the next day quoted Tijerina in the Santa Fe New Mexican as saying Jim Evans "has 24 hours to get out of the state." The AP reported that Tijerina and his Alianza are "going ahead with plans to make a citizen's arrest" and "this time we are not going unarmed." That night four members of Tijerina's group sought to make a citizen's arrest of Evans at his home, but he was not present when they arrived.

As a result of the sign burning incident, and the alleged threats against Evans, Federal Judge Howard Bratton was requested to revoke the bond under which Tijerina was free while awaiting action on the appeal of his conviction in the Echo Amphitheater case. Judge Bratton ordered Tijerina held without bond, and he was taken to the Federal Penitentiary at La Tuna, Texas to await court action.

In late September, 1969, Tijerina went to trial in Albuquerque in connection with the sign burning. After nearly a week of testimony, he was found guilty of aiding and abetting destruction of government property and assaulting a Forest Service officer. He was sentenced by Judge Bratton to three years in prison. His lawyers immediately announced an appeal.

The previous appeal from the Echo Amphitheater conviction had been decided against Tijerina in U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was then carried to the U. S. Supreme Court. In early October, 1969, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal. A rehearing was next requested.

Tijerina's court trials were not over. He was still scheduled to go on trial in connection with additional charges growing out of the Tierra Amarilla court house raid. Since his bond was still revoked, he was being held in jail in Albuquerque but allowed to go to the Federal building under guard each day to use an office for interviewing witnesses to prepare his defense in the raid case.

Just before the trial opened the Alianza met in Albuquerque in annual convention and elected Ramon Tijerina, brother of the jailed leader, as president. It also issued a map of southwestern states showing land grant areas, which it announced it would petition President Nixon and Congress to separate from the United States for a separate nation.

The jailed leader disagreed with the latest switch in policy and announced to the press his resignation from the organization.

Before the District Court trial got well under way, a mistrial was declared by District Judge Gannett Burks because of what he termed "impermissible separation of jurors" disqualifying two or more from hearing the evidence. The trial was reset for the November, 1969 term of court.

On November 26, Tijerina was convicted on two counts of false imprisonment of a deputy and assault with intent to kill or maim the jailer Eulogio Salazar. Tijerina was acquitted on other charges growing out of the Tierra Amarilla raid. His attorney filed notice of appeal.

It is ironic that the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests have been the scene of violent demonstrations in recent years, since the rapport between the Forest Service and ranchers and residents of northern New Mexico had been generally good over the years.

While there were misunderstandings and oftentimes some resistance to Forest rules and regulations, in general there had been good cooperation. Forest Service officials learned early in its existence that it made good sense to assign people to northern New Mexico who could speak Spanish. Some Rangers and deputy Rangers, aides, fire guards and work crews have been of Spanish extraction. Most of the Anglo Rangers were men who spoke Spanish—men like Elliott Barker, Tom Stewart, and Dick Wetherill (who spoke Spanish and Navajo as well as English.) One of the Santa Fe's outstanding Rangers was the late Joe Rodriguez, who knew his Coyote District like his own backyard and knew every man, woman and child in the District. The adjoining Carson National Forest had such Rangers as Paul Martinez, L. P. Martinez, Chris Zamora, and Steve Romero.

Because the Carson National Forest has so many small ranches bordering the Forest, and because it has been used by northern New Mexico residents for two centuries, the Carson has the largest number of permittees of any Forest in the Southwestern Region.

As Elliott Banker once related, "four-fifths of our dealings were with Spanish-speaking people. They would listen to a person who could talk their language and explain things to them, whereas if it had to be done in English or through an interpreter, you could never put it over at all."

The appearance on the scene of a Spanish-speaking, fire-eating orator who aroused the people in what most legal minds regard as a hopeless cause brought about an era of bitterness, discontent, and violence.

It is all the more ironic since only two or three hundred people are involved as so-called land grant claimants, but the organized group keeps up a constant barrage of publicity and agitation.

As the administrator of lands that were once claimed as grants, the Forest Service has sought to administer them for the greatest good for the greatest number. The small ranchers in the neighborhood of the Forests have been given permits to graze, work crews have been hired from the village, projects have been sought to upgrade the economy of the area.

Years ago the Forest Service began the organization of livestock associations made up of permittees on the Forests in order to deal with representatives of the Forest users rather than a large number of individuals singly. The associations were designed to help the permittees and to improve relations.

Chief of Operation Walt Graves has explained how they operated:

"On the Coyote District (where he had once served as Ranger) the livestock associations were limited usually to one grazing allotment and were made up of permittees on that particular allotment. In a few instances, the association covered two allotments, primarily because we had permittees who grazed on one of them in the summer and another in the winter, and we combined the two into one association. They were strictly local associations. They elected their own officers. I, as Ranger, had to act as secretary and keep the thing going, but they conducted their own meetings which I always attended. To the extent that we could, we accepted their recommendations for range management practices and that sort of thing on the allotment. We could not always accept their recommendations because they were continually requesting increases in numbers, and this, of course, we could not accept."

The livestock associations are still operating, and on the Coyote District, for example, there are three associations. Many of the permittees are small farmers, with two or three on a half dozen cows grazing on the Forest. But having that forest permit is very important to them, and it has been said that most of them would sell anything else they owned before they would part with their Forest permit. It is something of a status symbol to be one of the permittees. Presently the grazing fee on the District is 43 cents per cow per month, although a sliding scale of increases will take it above a dollar in the 1970's.

Eddie Rael, range conservationist on several Districts in recent years, and currently Ranger on the Coyote District, thinks the cooperation between permittees and the Forest Service today is better than it has been in many years, in spite of the Alianza activities, or maybe because of it.

There has been a backlash among Spanish New Mexicans in the area because of the Echo Amphitheater incident, the Tierra Amarilla raid and the sign burning.

"Our people here at Coyote saw what an ugly thing it was," Rael related, "and many of them have turned their backs on the Alianza. In fact, before the recent convention of the organization when a meeting was called here, only a very few people showed up."

Even on the day of the sign burning, the people of Coyote were onlookers rather than participants, according to Rael. "Manuel Martinez, the State Police officer who covers this district, was here that day," Rael said. "He told me that he looked the crowd over and the Coyote people were just spectators scattered around in the background looking on.

"Many people are actually embarrassed that they ever had anything to do with the Alianza. They say that when they go to Santa Fe to shop, they even hesitate to say they are from Coyote. And they have always been so proud of their village."

Rael also credits improved relations between the Forest Service and residents of the area to more cooperative efforts by the present professional staff of the Ranger District, who have been assigned there in the past two years.

Rael explains it this way:

"Years ago, the old-time Rangers were close to the people. Probably in more recent years when new Rangers were assigned to the Districts they seemed less approachable to the villagers who looked upon them as very important people, and they hesitated to take their little problems to the Ranger or his staff—or to ask for a free-wood permit or make some complaint. So perhaps they got caught in some violation of regulations and were pretty unhappy about it. Then along came Tijerina and capitalized on their discontent."

Because he is a native New Mexican—born and brought up in Santa Fe and one of the native Spanish American professionals in the Forest Service—Rael understands the problems on both sides. As a result, much of his work the past two years has been visiting and listening to people of the District, explaining the Forest Service operations and trying to iron out minor differences.

"You know, it's a funny thing," he said, "but I think I do more business just before and after church on Sunday than any time during the week."

As a devout Catholic, Rael attends church every Sunday. He recalled that one very elderly lady came up to him one Sunday morning to congratulate him. When he asked what she was congratulating him for, she replied in Spanish: "For working for the Forest Service. I didn't know that they employed Catholics."

In his present assignment, Rael could probably have moved back to Santa Fe to work out of the Forest Supervisor's office, but he asked to remain in Coyote.

One of the reasons is that he wants his children to learn and speak Spanish fluently. "I don't have the time or the patience to teach them, and my wife is from Wisconsin, so she can't help them. But they are certainly picking it up at school." The Raels have six children, and three of them are now in school.

Spanish is the language of rural northern New Mexico, although most of the people except the elderly are bilingual. Since the beginning years of the Forest Service, Rangers have been encouraged to learn Spanish if they did not know the language before taking assignment in various parts of New Mexico and Arizona.

When Bill Edwards, formerly Ranger at Coyote, was moved to the District from Ruidoso, he took a cram course in Spanish. At Coyote, he told Eddie Rael he wanted to continue to use his Spanish so he could become more fluent and not let it lapse. Rael then suggested that they conduct their conversations in Spanish and that he give his instructions and orders to work crews in Spanish.

Rael helped it along by telling permittees to "talk to the Ranger in Spanish when you see him."

"Word got around that the guardia, as they call the Ranger, could talk their language," Rael explained. "It made all the difference in the world in the relations with people generally."

Rael's current assignment as this was written is another activity that is improving the Forest Service's image among the people of the District. He is researching land titles to attempt to clean up titles on a large number of small plots of land—about 600 acres in all—that were included in the general survey of the Polvadera Grant when it was purchased by the Government in 1937 as part of the Land Utilization Projects. Tracing ownership and occupation of the lots by families over the past 150 years has been a time-consuming task since it means tracing and examining legal documents, parish and family records and personal interviews with old time residents. But the Forest Service is trying hard to assist the people in securing clear title to their land.

In the fall of 1969, the Forest Service purchased ranch lands on the Chama River which will provide tremendous recreation facilities in the Coyote District since the 3,000-acre ranch has seven miles of river frontage. The ranch was purchased from the Guy C. Scull estate and comprised lands that had once been part of the T. D. Burns Ranch.

The Forest Service still has land problems to be solved. One involves the 1,750,000 acres of non-Federal lands intermingled and within the boundaries of the National Forests and Grasslands of Region 3. In addition there are nearly 2,000,000 acres of Spanish Land Grant lands adjacent and surrounded by Forest lands.

Congress has authorized land purchases, and as parcels within National Forests become available efforts are made to acquire them. Lands within Wildernesses have first priority in this regard. The Forest Service is also seeking to acquire by exchange, lands within old Spanish land grants, since they are valuable watershed and have substantial recreation development potential.

It has been noted in the Service's Management Guide that "the Spanish land grants have been largely stripped of timber under past ownerships and management. Fifty to 100 years of restoration and protection are needed for them to again contribute fully to the Nation's economy and to the welfare of locally dependent people."

Fortunately for generations yet to come, the Forest Service takes the long view in the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of our land resources.


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Updated: 11/24/2008