1890 Report on the Pueblos of Laguna, Acoma and Zuñi

By Julian Scott, Special Agent

The following report was prepared during September and October 1890, and August and September 1891:

My observation in the 3 pueblos of Laguna, Acoma, and Zuñi is, that the so called control of these people by the United States government makes them expectant, and they hurry to Santa Fe to the United States Indian agent on small matters, Their civilization from an Anglo Saxon standpoint is nominal, still they are more provident than their New Mexican neighbors. These people should at once be dropped by the nation and required to assume the duties of citizenship, to which they are legally entitled.

The Indians of Laguna, Acoma, and Zuñi have many intensely interesting traditions. Their religions beliefs are founded upon a theology of their own, which while it is unlike the Christian in most respects it greatly resembles it on the moral side; their superstitions are endless.

The Indians of Acoma and Laguna speak the same language as those of the pueblos of Zia, San Domingo, Cochiti, Santa Ana, San Felipe, Taos, and Islets, in New Mexico, and Tema, on the first Mesa, in Arizona. They live by agriculture, and stock raising; besides, they manufacture a large amount of pottery, which they sell to tourists and in the large towns accessible to them and along the Atlantic and Pacific railroad.

Their stock consists of horses, cattle, burros, sheep, and goats. They raise corn in their fields. Wheat was once one of their chief products, but it is not now. It is not so reliable as corn, and they are able to purchase flour of the traders as cheap as they can produce it. Their garden stuffs are chili, onions, melons, pumpkins, beaus, and fruit, such as apples, peaches, and grapes. Their meat supply is from sheep, goats, and cattle.

I found it very difficult to get at any figures respecting the number of acres these pueblos have under cultivation or the amount of corn or wheat they raise; neither could I find any way to ascertain the size of their herds, scattered as they were on the mesas and through the canyons for grazing. It is very difficult to get information from these Indians, and particularly so if they even suspect you of being a government agent.

I asked a Laguna man how many horses he lead; he answered by holding up both of his hands, meaning 10; then, on inquiry of another what the number of his horses was, he gave me the same reply. I found out that the men were part owners in the same 10 horses. There were others in this partnership, all belonging to the same family.

The fields are scattered through the San Jose and Acoma valleys and along the little streams and washes in side canyons where water can be stored and irrigation is practicable. Where there is a spring, however small, there too is a garden, large or otherwise, according to the water supply.

The seasons for crops are very irregular; but the people try to raise as much corn over their annual consumption as possible, to guard against a future small crop or a famine; so in a good year they will have for storage and to barter double the amount they will consume, and perhaps more. From all I could learn after a good deal of “talk” and much smoking of cigarettes and old pipes and many inquiries I have made the estimate of the number of acres of corn they cultivate.

Acoma has a population of 566 souls. Allowing for consumption, waste, barter, and storage (surplus) 1 pound a day per capita, a total of 3,689 bushels a year, and 12 bushels per acre of yield on the average, 308 acres may he given as under cultivation at Acoma; consumption, including waste, etc, 1,475; stored for contingency, 1,475; for barter, about 739; making a total of 3,689 bushels.

Enough vegetables and melons are raised for both consumption and trade, Laguna is situated 16 miles northeast of Acoma and is directly on the Atlantic and Pacific railroad. The people are similar in every essential to those of Acoma, and speak the same tongue. I was told by one of their old governors, Santa Ago, that Laguna was originally settled by a colony consisting of disaffected members of all the pueblos, whose languages they still speak,

The soil in the San Jose valley, in which Laguna stands, is similar to that of the valley of Acoma, and the advantages for irrigating, although much better, are not improved, owing to a lack of engineering skill. The average yield of corn and estimates of consumption are about the same as for Laguna.

Laguna has a population of 1,143. Consumption of corn, as noted per capita, for the year is within a fraction of 7,450 bushels, and allowing 12 bushels yield per acre, 621 acres may be given as under cultivation. They may produce more corn to the acre, but such cornfields as I saw were not promising.

Consumption, including waste, 2,980; storage for contingency, 2,080; for barter, about 1,490; making a total of 7,450. bushels.
Vegetables and melons are raised for consumption, trade, and storage.

The people of Laguna, Aroma, and Zuñi want the government to give them a police force sufficient to protect their interests against the bands of horse thieves and to keep in submission some of their own unruly ones.

So far as I was able to observe, the people of the 3 large pueblos, Laguna, Acoma, and Zuñi, resemble each other in all particulars. The people of Laguna are in some respects more advanced than the other Indians in the direction of household comforts, many of the families there having in use modern beds, chairs, and tables, but all of them, including the other Pueblos, have taken up with the modern tin coffeepot, teacups and saucers, plates, knives, forks, and spoons, and are adopting modern ways of cooking.

While nearly all the men have adopted in part the dress of the white race, principally the waistcoat, the women cling to the old blanket dress, clumsy, deerskin leggings and moccasins, and small tunics of some one color; a few wear calico waists. Except in the manner the young women have of putting up their hair, the costumes of both men and women are the same as described in a report on the Moquis.

That the Indians of the 3 pueblos are improving from year to year is certain, but the evolution from their former state to a higher condition is slow. They are jealous of their religious beliefs, and suspect that the interest taken in their welfare is only to force upon them the doctrines of a new faith.

The testimony of whites and progressive Indians was that the death rate was decreasing.

The lands of these Indians arc secured to them by United States patents of date 1863, or reserved, and they have an agent, who resides at Santa Fe. While nominally under control of the United States they are self supporting in all these pueblos. The people manufacture pottery, blankets, jewelry, and clothing, in addition to engaging in general agriculture. I found that the census of Laguna, Aroma, and Zuñi had been most satisfactorily taken by the United States enumerators.

Colonel Walter G. Marmon, of Laguna, requested me to add to my report the following respecting Indian schools and issue of fruit trees for the Pueblo Indians:
Let there be a compulsory school law passed by Congress complete in itself, giving full power to collect from each tribe such children as are wanted for the schools; the government Indian boarding schools in the states and territories where the tribes are located to be primary and industrial schools, the term to be 5 years. At the end of the 5 year term let all pupils who have shown ability be sent to a higher grade of schools away from their people, such as Carlisle and Lawrence, or to colleges in the east until they graduate.

Issue of fruit trees should be made to Indians. Let it be a requirement before issue that the Indian shall fence in and properly prepare the plot of ground where he intends to plant his orchard. Let it be the duty of the agent who issues the trees to inspect each plot, and if properly prepared then make the issue. This to apply to the Navajos as well as the 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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