Collection: Indians in the 1890 Census

Observations of the Census of the Pueblo Indians, 1890

For various reasons statistics compiled from schedules of enumerators as applied to the area under cultivation would be misleading. Upon the ordinary blanks used for agricultural statistics the instructions were that no entry was to be made of farms under 3 acres. Very many farms among these villages do not contain that amount, awl were therefore not included. Again, in a number of cases enumerators were not faithful either in inquiries or entries. On the schedules of Jemez, Cochiti, and San Domingo the number of farms and not their area was given. The, enumerators of San Felipe, Sandia, Santa Ana, and Zia put down 5,000 acres as the amount cultivated by each. Even as the amount available for cultivation this estimate is highly exaggerated. In the foregoing comments on these pueblos I have noted the area actually cultivated and that available for cultivation, At Zia, for instance, less than 100 acres are tilled, and more than 900 could be irrigated and utilized. At San Juan most of the holdings were placed at 5 acres, giving the impression that great equality existed. In fact, it is a community of rich and poor, and there is a great disparity in actual possession. The schedules from Nambe, Pojoaque, Tesuque, San Ildefonso, and Santa Clara I believe to be as correct as faithful endeavor and long experience in dealing with Indians could make...

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Picuris Pueblo

The following report was furnished by Mr. Frederick P. Midler, of Taos, New Mexico, February 20, 1891 I have just returned from the pueblo of Picuris. On the journey I and my horse came near freezing, The snow on the mountains and on the trail is 4.5 feet deep. No human being has passed through there this winter, The Indian land under cultivation at Picuris amounts to 555 acres. Out of this every family owns an average of about 15 acres. The sanitary condition can not be called good, as the statistics of the pueblo show that they are every year decreasing. They have never had any school at the pueblo, nor do they send their children to school unless they arc compelled to do so by the government, The main occupations of these Indians are farming in the summer and deer hunting in the winter, The pueblo is situated at the foot of the Picuris Mountain, about a mile west of the little town of Penasso, whence they get all their groceries and provisions from the sale of their grain. The amount of land that could be cultivated by the Indians is 2,055 acres. They can also get a sufficient supply of water to irrigate all this land, but, not being at all industrious, they are satisfied with cultivating only the acreage necessary to produce grain or crops...

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Isleta Pueblo

On arriving in Isleta one immediately marks numerous points of difference between this community and the more northern pueblos in matters of dress, building, and customs. The town is composed entirely of 1 story dwellings, for the most part detached, though not isolated from neighboring habitations. These are always commodious and built frequently after the Spanish custom, about a court, or plaza.. Tables are generally found within, though not always dined upon, and chairs of Americain manufacture are usually to be had to offer a stranger; but the ease of a roll of blankets on the floor is not...

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Sandia Pueblo

Like San Felipe, the Sandia Pueblo community holds more land than it can improve. The large Mexican town of Bernalillo presses upon the north side of its tract of 24,187 acres, In 1824 the Indians of the pueblo gave the land on which the town stands, but no patent of this transaction is inexistence. Sales are consummated in the town and await confirmation, Passing 1,200 acres of open land, here and there developing weak traces of alkali, left as a pasture open to the use of the town, cultivation begins half a mile from the pueblo. The acequia, at a high level, is supplied from a source 2 miles above. Bernalillo lies just south of the line of the ranches of Santa Ana. The water flows for 6 miles before it is utilized, most of the forming being done south. of the pueblo. I found the governor alone setting a worthy example to his people, working in the mud to his knees at the point where the Rio Grande forms a junction with his ditch. The office of governor, he informed me, after he had gained solid ground and had reduced the weight of his legs by kicking off the chunks of clay, was an honorary one, yet so exacting in its demands as to compel a neglect of one’s own interest by any who accept the preferment. The...

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San Felipe Pueblo

At my first visit to San Felipe I was denied entrance to the pueblo, owing to a secret dance which was in progress. The next day, coming on invitation, I found the council of principals already assembled and anxious to make amends for the inhospitable treatment of the day before. We discussed 2 large tracts of land, each available for cultivation, one needing an extension of the acequia and the other a boom in the river, Upon leaving the line of San Domingo, along which every foot was cultivated, one enters a tract of the same sort of land,...

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Santa Ana Pueblo

One leaves Zia to follow the Jemez River directly east toward the Sandia range of mountains. The soil from this point rapidly becomes sandy and untillable, and at Santa Ana, 9 miles below, it is entirely unproductive. The inhabitants of this town have long since abandoned it as a place of slimmer abode, and use it only for autumn and winter residence. The town is built upon 2 streets running parallel with the river, and out its bank a single cottonwood tree is the only one seen in a range of many miles. Half a mile back of the town, to the north, the mesa rises to a height of 1,200 feet. On the top of this the cattle find scant pasture. They roam without herders, returning by a trail down its precipitous side every 2 days for water. They remain in the river for several hours, and then return to other dry tablelands. To the south, beyond the river, as far as the eye can reach, lie undulating plains of wind-swept sands, clotted by stunted cedars growing at intervals, and often forming the nucleus of new mounds during wind storms. This tract is given over to coyotes and rattlesnakes. The trail through it to Bernalillo is almost obliterated by the shifting of the surface. While the tribe is farming its ranches on the Rio Grande below, 1 man,...

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Zia Pueblo

Approached from any direction the little town of Zia stands forth boldly against the sky, a low line of gray white buildings capping the stony promontory, which rises abruptly from the river to the height of 250 feet, and finds its connection with the mesa beyond in a narrow ridge to the north. The church of the Jesuits, occupying the highest site, is not large, but built for a much larger population than is to be found here. Evidences of shrinkage are everywhere apparent in the ruined foundations of houses long since deserted, as well as in the dilapidation of vacant tenements. From the church to the plaza at the other end of the town, a distance of 200 yards, stand the houses that now remain. Little regularity in construction is observable, save that the buildings have been placed in parallel lines and face the 4 cardinal points. They are constructed of cobblestones and volcanic scoria, great care being observed in the selection of stones of one size. These are joined in rows of adobe mud. Occasionally the surface is plastered, and the whole whitened. To the west of the town is a series of stone corrals. Every Saturday night the stock is driven into these and the herders are changed. Up the rocky sides come lines of horses, burros, mules, and cattle in headlong precipitation, hurrying to escape...

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Jemez Pueblo

The village of Jemez is situated at the mouth of one of the most romantic, canyons of New Mexico. Just above, the northern boundary of the pueblo grant the walls of the mesa on either side rise suddenly to a height of 1,900 feet. The remains of the ancient pueblo of Jemez are still seen 13 miles above, and upon the mesas between that and Jemez appear the ruins or more recent pueblos, built by insurrectionary communities. Approaching from the terminus of the valley, which penetrates the mountains for many miles, we cross the Viaceta Creek, dry in sunnier, and 2.5 miles below this line the pueblo, inclosed on the northwest by numerous little orchards of apple, plum, mid apricot trees, emerges from beneath this deep tangle of green. On entering from this direction, the Presbyterian mission schoolhouse, corral, and dwelling, built of adobe, are passed, and shortly after a line of cedar corrals extending entirely along the east and south sides of the town. At the extreme end of these is a Catholic Church, and near it a 2-story frame building of the Catholic mission, its schoolroom below and dwelling apartments above. The plaza of Jemez is irregular and unusually narrow. The houses, built closely about this, are 1 of 2 stories; On either side, north and south, are 2 other streets, upon which the houses have been...

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Cochiti Pueblo

Cochiti has an extremely favorable site. It times the river at a height of 95 feet and is surrounded on 3 sides by tillable plains. The buildings in the town, 50 in number, are generally separated, not more than 3 dwellings being contiguous. The larger portion are of 1 story. Bight Mexican families dwell here and fraternize with the Indians. As long ago as 1820 the Mexicans acquired land here. They are regarded as under the jurisdiction of the pueblo, and perform communal work upon irrigating ditches and roads by command of the governor of the tribe. This community has made several removes since the beginning of the seventeenth century. The town was abandoned in 1681 on the approach of Don de Otermin with a small force, the tribe returning to the mesa of Portero Viejo, there constructing a new pueblo. Don Diego de Vargas 13 years after took this new pueblo by surprise and compelled the Cochitinos to resettle on their old site. In June of 1696, after participating in the uprising of the Jemez, Tehaas, Taos, and other tribes, they fled to the highest mountains; but through negotiations with the Spaniards, they again occupied the town of Rio Grande. Here they remained under the surveillance of Spanish and Mexican regiments unti11846, and here they continue to the present time. The arroyo De la Peralta joins the river...

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San Domingo Pueblo

This pueblo touches Cochiti on the north and San Felipe on the south, where its line runs at an angle of 50 degrees with the river and invades the square northern comers of the latter. Its population of nearly 1,000, is industrious and utilizes all available land. Hundreds of acres, however, are wasted in the riverbed, as they are unwilling to risk crops upon it. An island overgrown by cottonwood trees serves no other purpose than that of a great park for the pueblo. Including this and the river bed, which varies from 1.5 to 1 mile wide, there are about 10 sections within the reach of water. I calculated that less than one-fifth of this is under cultivation. At the village notable changes have been wrought since my visit to it 10 years ago. The church, which then stood some distance from the river, has since dropped into it, shoving the rapidity with which the water invades the clay banks. Many houses have disappeared, their owners removing to higher levels at the other end of the village. On the left bank of the river, surrounding the pueblo, are numerous little orchards, lately planted, but already bearing plums, peaches, apples, and apricots, a sale for which is found at the railroad station of Wallace, 3 miles below. Small plots only of fruit, vegetables, and corn are found on this...

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Nambe Pueblo

Nambe is found by following the bed of the Pojoaque River for three miles after leaving the government road. Its difficulty of access causes it to be rarely visited, The hills surrounding it to the north and east are fast crumbling by disintegration, showing some of the best sculptured forms of geological structure to be seen among the pueblos. The town is situated at the intersection of a small stream with the Pojoaque River, affording an unfailing supply of water and abundant crops. The population numbers 79, with farms covering about 300 acres. There are 20 landholders, the largest having 40 and the smallest 6 acres, The average size of farms is 15 acres, larger than in most of the pueblos. Save a few beans and vegetables, their crops are entirely of wheat and corn. Alfalfa, harvested 3 times a year, is grown by all those owning stock. The wealthiest Indian in the pueblo has realized $360 from his 40 acres, and few Indians in this section do better than this. This man has assistance on his farm, and, selecting him as an extreme example of Indian industry. I state his crop for the present year as follows: wheat, 38 bushels; corn, 100 bushels; alfalfa, 30 tons. He owns 2 horses, 2 burros, and 20 cows, which bore 8 calves last year. From this herd he was able to...

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Tesuque Pueblo

One approaches Tesuque, situated on the left bank of the river of that name, over a road winding through small orchards fenced by an abatis of cedar boughs driven into the ground, while apple and peach trees tangle their branches overhead. Small patches of wheat and corn lie on either side of the road. The village is built about a quadrangle 240 feet long by 150 feet broad. The houses are mostly of 2 stories. The Catholic Church is small and in a neglected condition. Methods of farming are crude. Both wooden and steel plows are used. Corn is...

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Pojoaque Pueblo

The grant to this pueblo originally contained 13,520 acres. Owing to shrinkage in population the inhabitants have parted with most of their land. At present they have but 25 acres. The pueblo, situated a mile east of the junction of the Pojoaque and Tesuque Rivers, contains 20 persons, They have been in litigation for 4 years with two Mexicans who have settled on the river a mile below the village. This land was not farmed by the Pueblos. The Mexicans therefore appropriated it. The governor says he has wasted much time at count during harvest season over this ease. He has attended sessions for 4 years. The sum total of property in Pojoaque is 8 Cows, 12 burros, 2 wagons, 7 pigs, 1 set of harness, 1 ox cart, 1 small wagon and 4...

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San Ildefonso Pueblo

Santa Clara’s neighbor on the south is San Ildefonso. The village lies on the opposite side of the river, 5 miles below, and at the intersection of Pojoaque River, which meets the Rio Grande at right angles from the east. The dwellings are built upon a large, well kept plaza of rectangular shape, and the only plaza in the pueblos having shade trees. From this center the buildings are found variously placed. Close to it on the acequia are several Mexican houses and in the fields at a distance several others. Inquiries developed the fact that years ago these families were allowed to enter the pueblo, and land was sold to them. By degrees they have enlarged their boundaries. No land, however, has been sold them for a number of years. All acts of violence are tried by the justice of the peace, the Mexican alcalde court. The available land for cultivation remaining to this pueblo is a strip on the east bank, and between one-third and one-sixth of a mile wide. The largest plot, 7 acres, under cultivation is owned by a widow, growing corn and wheat and a few fruit trees, the only fruit trees in the village. This land is tilled for her by the community, and her gratuities in return have won for her the name of the “Mother of the Pueblo”. The size of...

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Santa Clara Pueblo

Santa Clara is poor. The valley which widens toward San Juan closes again on its approach to Santa Clara. The pueblo occupies a site on the right bank of the river at its junction with the canyon. The stream running from this is apt to dry up before the end of the summer. A system of acequias has been constructed here, and corn was planted this year. But little water was flowing daring my visit in the middle of August, and most of the acequias were dry and dusty, The corn was not mature. A reservoir in the canyon would relieve much anxiety and prevent frequent loss of crops to the Indians. From the northern boundary of the grant toward the town (the town invariably occupies the center of pueblo grants) little or no farming is done, the mesa here running close to the river. Below the village on the right bank lies most of the tilled land. Three hundred and fifty acres are here, devoted to corn, wheat, alfalfa, and a variety of vegetables. There are but few orchards. The largest plot owned by one man is 30 acres. From this the holdings decrease in size to 3 and. 2 acres. There are 22 horses, 4 oxen, and 30 burros in the pueblo. Some who have horses have no harness and no money to purchase. The agency granted...

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