Tracy L. Brown
Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Summer Scholar
‘Half Indians’: Pueblo Governance and Sovereignty after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The social and political status of Pueblo peoples in New Mexico after the US-Mexican War was undefined. While the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed all Mexican citizens living in the territory US citizenship (unless they wished to remain Mexican citizens), the treaty said nothing about the issue of the status of Pueblo Indians in the new territory. The Organic Law of 1850, which created the territory of New Mexico, did nothing to clarify their status, either. For decades, authorities debated whether or not Pueblos were “real” Indians because they did not live like Indian peoples with whom government officials in the late nineteenth century were most familiar: the nomadic hunters and gatherers of the Plains. Pueblos were sedentary agriculturalists that had retained a land base since Spanish contact in 1539. Because this was so, they were perceived of as being “civilized” and, therefore, should not be subjected to federal oversight. It was not until 1913 that the Supreme Court declared in United States v. Sandoval that Pueblos should fall under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In her research, Dr. Brown investigates how (or if) this ambiguous status affected the political functioning of Pueblo communities between 1848 and 1913. What appears to have occurred is that the federal government assigned Indian agents to them as if they were, in fact, under their jurisdiction (and as they did with other Indian communities). It is unclear, however, if these agents – or, by extension, the federal government -- had any real impact on Pueblo communities, their governance or their sovereignty. Thus, the question she hopes to answer is: did Pueblo communities retain their sovereignty during the territorial period (as they had to a great degree during the colonial and Mexican periods), or, was their sovereignty diminished despite the fact that they were not subjected to full federal oversight until 1913?
Affiliation at time of award:
Professor of Anthropology, Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Social Work, Central Michigan University