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
50-YEAR Anniversary of the Return of Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Source: Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo, its Tribal Council, Governor’s Office and War Chief’s Office, who are responsible for asserting the Pueblo’s sovereign and inherent rights to protect its people and its lands, its culture and its way of life will observe the fifty-year anniversary of the “Return of Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo” on December 15, 2020 as a quiet private remembrance due to the on-going dangers of the pandemic.

We respectfully invite observance of that day in spirit, the anniversary of the date when PL 91-550, the Blue Lake legislation was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon. We especially thank all those who supported us in the long 64 year struggle many who are no longer with us and we are thankful that these ancestral lands were rightfully returned to Taos Pueblo.

In 1906 the Taos Pueblo people and its lands, its culture and its way of life were severely threatened when Blue Lake and surrounding lands that are an integral part of the Taos Pueblo culture and traditions were taken away from the Pueblo by the Federal Government to become a federal Forest Reserve. After this occurred a struggle began that was to last 64 years through numerous Taos Pueblo administrations and generations of Taos Pueblo people, until 1970, when Blue Lake itself was returned through PL 91-550.

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

It would take another 26 years before the “Path of Life” area, that is an integral part of the Blue Lake’s cultural importance was also returned, making a total of 90 years of struggle before the Blue Lake Return was fully accomplished.

The Return of Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo was defined as the cornerstone of President Richard Nixon’s new Federal Indian Policy that was announced by him on July 8, 1970 in a historic meeting in the White House with the Taos Pueblo delegation. The Policy has been and continues to be greatly beneficial to all American Indians in the United States.

A grand 50-year commemoration event had been planned for September 19, 2020, which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the pandemic and associated restrictions. The Commemoration public event for which active planning had been initiated beginning in 2018 will be re-scheduled for a future safe date to be announced when we can celebrate Taos Pueblo’s historic 64 plus years of struggle for the return of its Blue Lake lands that had been unjustly taken by the federal government in 1906.

During the long struggle many people, Indian and non-Indian, supported Taos Pueblo in its efforts to have the sacred Blue Lake lands returned to its rightful owner, Taos Pueblo.

In lieu of a public event we have sent out letters about the anniversary on December 15 to share our remembrance and express our appreciation to key principals, supporters and friends of the Pueblo, congressional and governmental officials, and many others supporters, including family members of those friends and supporters who are no longer with us.

Taos Pueblo, wholeheartedly appreciates the support, leadership, the prayers, contributions, and sacrifices that brought Blue Lake back to our people.

Taos Pueblo and its people will not forget the significance of the Return of Blue Lake and the work by all those who served in the Tribal Council, the Governor’s Office and the War Chief’s Office since 1906 and the support of our tribal members, and the many friends and supporters who helped to bring Blue Lake back to Taos Pueblo.

Taos Pueblo will continue to honor and commemorate the return of Blue Lake in coming years by its future generations in the spirit of remembrance of the great achievement of justice for Taos Pueblo and for all Native Americans across this great country.