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 them.

For Taos and Picuris, owing to a lack of blanks, the farms and their products belonging to several owners were entered as one item. A failure to differentiate the schedules of Taos and Picuris renders it impossible to get from them the number of acres cultivated by each pueblo. The schedules of Isleta were late, and did not come under my observation.

In compliance with instructions to special agents, bidding them to obtain assistance from any and every reliable source, I went to the Indian agency with the schedule marked “General schedule for the entry of totals in the various departments” of which the agent is overseer. I learned there was no record of the amount of land cultivated in the pueblos. Having completed a tour through 15 of the 19 pueblos I am able to compare facts with approximations from the agency. I find 8,750 acres under cultivation by three-fourths of the whole number of villages. The average worth of a cultivated acre is between $7 and $8 to an Indian. From their land, therefore, the proceeds of these Indians of the 15 pueblos is about $70,000. Their population is 5,250; an average, therefore, of $23.50 to the individual per year.

The question of taxation for the Pueblo Indian, though legitimately resting upon his right of citizenship, is naturally influenced by a knowledge of the opportunities which his environments present for obtaining from taxable property the means of subsistence. Out of nearly 1,000,000 acres owned by the Pueblos of the 19 villages, including Zuñi, Acoma and Laguna, less than 13,000 are tilled. By proper engineering much land could be saved in river bottoms and much reclaimed at higher levels; but in a number of pueblos land easily commanded by water is lying idle. A speedy, direct, and just method of rectifying this disparity between privilege and practice, ownership and occupation of territory, would be by taxation, based on all cultivatable tenure.

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Their present need is legal protection. Before the law they are citizens, and they are supposed to avail themselves of the courts, hiring their own counsel. The office of agent is merely advisory, in winch no real power exists, but to which, even in its insufficiency, the Indian clings, knowing no other source of help. So many of the encroachments upon the Indian domain on the part of land thieves are at first only experimental that prompt measures and energizing advice from an agent upon the ground would suffice to protect them and dishearten interlopers. The people having attained a degree of knowledge available for subsistence from the soil are content to consider themselves, by comparison with their migratory neighbors, incapable of further advances; they are sedentary in habits mid fixed in an intricate system of religions and civil laws. Open to educational influence only up to a given point, the barriers behind which the deep-rooted religious superstitions hide and entrench themselves can only be broken by the pressure of varied forces working simultaneously and in harmony. Faithful teachers have found that children of brightest promise, whom their parents have allowed to adopt the dress and ideas of our own, are suddenly recalled by a power from within. The child, happy for a number of years in civilized clothes and with fair knowledge of English, is suddenly seen to come out in full Indian outfit, and through lack of association rapidly forget the language acquired after many months of patient labor. Young fellows returning from the schools at Carlisle, Sante Fe, and Albuquerque for a time maintain themselves against heavy odds in their higher grade of civilization, but in 9 cases out of 10 relapse sooner or later; and frequently, like the soul out of which the unclean spirit was cast, having acquired added capacity by education, not only inviting back the old but also finding room for new and more dangerous occupants.

A graduate of Carlisle in a council of elders declared with eloquence and force that his influence should be against any change and so called advance. He had tried both civilizations and knew that what the Indian had maintained and preferred for centuries was still best suited to him. Fortunately, to the encouragement of philanthropic endeavor, it may be said that this opinion is not openly shared by all among the Pueblos.

Food of the Pueblos

Cows are seldom milked, and are made available only for meat and hides.

The diet of these Indians is largely vegetable, fresh meat being regarded as a great luxury, and eaten perhaps on an average of once in 3 weeks. Strips of dried flesh appear more frequently in stews of beans and red peppers. Goat flesh, beef, and mutton are easily cured, and after slight drying in the sun may be kept for an indefinite period. Peaches and apples are dried and stored for winter use. Muskmelons are peeled, cleaned, and hung upon the branches of young cottonwood trees which the owners of all melon patches cut in groves to surround their summer lodges. All branches unable to support the weight of a melon are removed, and on, the dry racks thus formed the surplus of this much prized fruit is preserved. Corn is converted into meal or roasted green and eaten as a vegetable. Tortillas are made of flour partially leavened with sour dough, a heavy flapjack cooked upon copper plates. Beans and stews are eaten with scoops; scoop and frijoles disappear together. The scoop is an article called gnayave, made of thin corn meal, cooked upon hot rocks, resembling brown paper, and plastic enough to be rolled up and used as a scoop: an advance upon fingers, but a degree below pewter. Coffee is universally used and seldom without sugar. Wine is made at Jemez, Santa Ana, Sandia, and Isleta. No statistics of quantity could be obtained. With fruit in its season, the above is the bill of fare to be found in the pueblos. Stoves are used in Sandia, Isleta, Laguna, and Acoma but are rarities in all other pueblos.


Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894.

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