As leaders of the Pueblo of Taos look on, President Richard Nixon signs H.R.71, a bill to return the sacred Blue Lake in New Mexico to the tribe, on December 15, 1970. Photo: National Archives

'Come celebrate with us': Taos Pueblo commemorates return of sacred land

News from Taos Pueblo in northern New Mexico.

On September 19, 2020, Taos Pueblo will commemorate the fifty-year anniversary of the return of Blue Lake to the Pueblo. The event will commemorate the Pueblo’s 64-year struggle, its outcome, its significance to the Taos Pueblo people and nationally to other Indian tribes across the United States, and to again recognize the support, help and guidance received from so many during those difficult times.

In 1906 the Blue Lake land and watershed were unjustly taken by the Federal Government to be placed into a national forest without notice to, and without consultation with the Pueblo. Since that time Taos Pueblo and its people disputed the taking and struggled to regain its rightful aboriginal ownership of the land that is an integral part of its spiritual way of life.

After hearings by Congressional Committees where the Pueblo leaders pleaded their case, with the strong support of President Nixon and other strong bipartisan support the Pueblo’s legislation passed and was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 15, 1970.

Former president Richard Nixon is seen with leaders of Taos Pueblo at the White House on July 8, 1970. Five months later, the tribe was back in Washington, D.C., to watch Nixon sign a bill to return 48,000 acres of ancestral territory in New Mexico to the tribe. Photo: White House Press Office / Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Taos Pueblo Governor Edwin Concha stated:

“For sixty-four years our grandfathers fought for our sacred land, most are gone; a few remain. Although they were offered a monetary settlement, no amount of money was worth the sacred value of our Blue Lake lands. It was suggested in Washington, D.C. halls that it was just some “old” men that were involved in the fight. But they were wrong; they, the “old” men had “us” in their hearts and minds. The legacy they left us is what we will be proud to celebrate for generations to come. Native Americans throughout the country look to our Pueblo for not giving up and what we accomplished for all native peoples.

“Therefore, we are announcing that a celebration for this great accomplishment will take place on September 19, 2020. We encourage everyone to come celebrate with us.”

Taos Pueblo War Chief Gary Lujan stated:

“For many of us growing up, we witnessed our grandfathers struggle to regain control of Blue Lake, a spiritual entity paramount to our existence, that if it were not returned, our very existence would be in question, it was from this premise that they never gave up, for that I am grateful for their perseverance.”

The return of Blue Lake was designated by President Nixon in July 1970 as the symbolic center piece, a tangible cornerstone, of his new federal Indian Policy in a historic meeting of Taos Pueblo Leaders and the White House. Under that new policy, Self Determination and Self Governance were established for tribes, along with other new policies that continue to be greatly beneficial to Tribes across the U.S. The commemoration will give current and future generations of Taos Pueblo people, other Native Americans, and citizens and Indigenous People an opportunity to learn about the history of a 64-year struggle that by unique perseverance led to a monumental outcome.

Related activities will be scheduled and announced leading up to the Commemoration event. There will be historic exhibits of documents, photographs, newspaper articles and other memorabilia to re-create the history about the great efforts that it took to achieve this historic achievement.

The Commemoration will be a public event that will be held at Taos Pueblo.

For further information contact: tribalsecretary@taospueblo.com

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