A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Dixon/Embudo: A Community on the Move By Kay Matthews
Editorial: Land Grants and the Legacy of the New Deal By Mark Schiller
Editorial: What About Comanagement? By Kay Matthews
Draft of State Water Plan Presented to Public By Kay Matthews
By Kay Matthews
On a recent, beautiful fall day, the Rio Grande rocked with the sounds of Valle Son, a Cuban salsa band, playing a benefit for the Embudo Valley Library. Shel Neymark, former library board member, and his wife Liz Riedel, physician's assistant at the Embudo Clinic, hosted the event at their outdoor dance ramada on the banks of the river. The Dixon/Embudo community (and some of us from the upper watershed as well) turned out in full force, and $1,300 was raised to benefit the library.
Robert Templeton and Karen Cohen dance to the music
Egloes Jimenez and Shel Neymark show everyone how to salsa
The Embudo Valley Library opened in 1991 in the Atencio family house next to Atencio's store in Dixon through the efforts of Neymark, Jane Kaluta (who was the first librarian), Sandy Funk (who helped catalog the collection), and other community volunteers. In 2002, with an anonymous donation of $200,000 and a matching community grant of $50,000 (according to library board member Karen Cohen, that was raised in a matter of a few months), the non-profit Embudo Valley Library purchased the former Zeller store to house a community center and potential rental space, and the Zeller residence next door to house the library. The property also includes irrigated land behind the house, where heirloom fruit trees have been planted. The library employs two librarians, Elena Arellano and Sandy Funk, and is open Monday through Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m.
The library board received a subsequent grant of $23,000 from the McCune Charitable Foundation to transform the store into a community center, and with additional support of many volunteers, the center opened in May of 2002. According to Cohen, the center has been the hub of community activities, including meetings, family literacy classes, and a tutoring project funded by the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation and an anonymous donation.
The most recent community project is the 2003 Farmers' Market, which ran from July to October in the parking lot of the community center. Nineteen to twenty-three vendors from the Dixon/ Embudo valley, as well as a few producers from Velarde and Taos, sold everything from garlic, apples, and tomatoes to homemade breads, tamales, jams, and vinegars.
Felicity Fonseca with daughter Emma and garlic crop
Robert Templeton and Stan Crawford, regular shoppers
While the market began under the auspices of the Embudo Valley Library, a separate steering committee has been set up to explore the idea of establishing a cooperative grocery store in conjunction with the market. The Dixon Cooperative Market, which has incorporated as a non-profit, would be a full-line grocery store offering locally produced farm products, staples, such as milk, eggs, and tortillas, and as wide a range of groceries as possible, depending upon space limitations. The steering committee is currently negotiating with the Embudo Valley Library for space in the community center.
Clark Case, a local woodworker and member of the steering committee, told La Jicarita: "I'm tired of watching a million dollars a year leave the community and go to Whole Foods and Wal-Mart. With a community-owned grocery store we could support our local families instead of seeing our profits go Sam Walton's family, the richest family in the country."
Case believes that local producers are ready and willing to support a cooperative grocery. "In just 13 weeks the Farmers' Market generated $15,000 in sales," he said. "There are several growers in the area who can make produce available year-round, and farmers tell us they can keep our shelves filled." He also hopes that folks in the upper watershed will be involved in the store as members or suppliers.
The steering committee is currently conducting a membership drive, offering annual memberships for $25 and lifetime memberships for $200. So far the committee has signed up 50 members and hopes to increase that to 150. Capitalization certificates are also being offered, and if necessary, the cooperative will get a bank loan for start-up capital. The committee is also drafting a business plan and by-laws for approval by the members. Case emphasizes that with "low overhead, member ownership, and the freshest produce anywhere in the world" the store can be a model of how to build a local economy. If anyone would like to join the cooperative or would like additional information they may contact Case at 579-4169 or the cooperative at P.O. Box 250, Dixon, NM 87527.
While community members are duly proud of all these accomplishments, they now face the task of raising additional funds to sustain the projects. "It's not clear how a small community organization without government funding can survive," explains Cohen. Because the library is a non-profit, it cannot receive government support from the county or state because of anti-donation clauses. Rio Arriba County could support the library on a contractual basis, and Neymark thinks this would be appropriate: "The library is really the result of a tremendous grassroots effort of the community and I think that now government could step in and help support us." He is a member of the Rio Arriba Independent Libraries association, which plans to appeal to the county for funding for the four independent rural Rio Arriba libraries in existence - Embudo, El Rito, Abiquiú, and Truchas. The library does receive several thousand dollars a year from the New Mexico State Library to buy books.
The library board continues to raise money through foundation grants and fundraisers like the dance with Valle Son, but has had to cut back library staff to parttime and depends on volunteers to maintain library hours.
The New Mexico Organic Farming and Gardening Expo 2004 will be held February 13 and 14 in Albuquerque. Sponsored by The Farm Connection and the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission, this year's expo will feature keynote speaker Michael Abelman, author of On Good Land - The Autobiography of an Urban Farm and workshops on organic production and marketing as well as delicious organic food. For more information please call: 266-9849 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chellis Glendinning will be at the the Embudo Valley Library on Friday, November 21 at 7 p.m.to read from her work-in-progress, Chiva: The Ups and Downs of a Heroin Village - a creative nonfiction book that interweaves the story of a local dealer in a northern New Mexico village with the most dealers, users, and overdose deaths per capita in the U.S with an overview of the global workings of the business of heroin production. Glendinning lives in Chimayó. She is a writer, political activist, and psychotherapist whose books include Off the Map, which won the National Federation of Press Women 2000 book award; My Name Is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization; and When Technology Wounds.
By Mark Schiller
There's a specter haunting New Mexico - the specter of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Our federal and state governments have repeatedly broken the treaty's promise to uphold the sovereignty of land grants made to Native Americans and Hispanos by the Spanish and Mexican governments. Moreover, they've refused to accept responsibility for the consequences. Periodically, however, a ground swell of anger, frustration and indignation generated by the loss of land and political marginalization of people surfaces to remind us that this specter is still very much alive. But each time this happens, the government manages to suppress the movement by making more empty promises to redress this injustice or, as was the case in the late 1960s, actually sending in the army to arrest its leaders.
Now the federal government, through its General Accounting Office, is once again attempting to defuse this time bomb by claiming to investigate if the adjudications of these land grants by the federal government were unjust. Anyone who's read the books in the New Mexico Land Grant Series published by the University of New Mexico Press (including Malcolm Ebright's Land Grants and Lawsuits in Northern New Mexico, Victor Westphall's Mercedes Reales, and Land, Water, and Culture, edited by Charles L. Briggs and John R. Van Ness) knows there's ample documentation to demonstrate that injustices and improprieties were common in the proceedings of the Office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims during the second half of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century. Another book in this series, The Preservation of the Village by Suzanne Forrest, tells the less well known story of how Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal attempted to address this issue during the 1930s and early 40s and how its legacy, tragically, compounded the problem.
According to Forrest, the initial impetus for New Deal land reform in New Mexico came from John Collier, who became Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1933. In an effort to expand Navaho grazing rights and implement a program to restore degraded land, Collier engineered the purchase of 425,000 acres of eroded land from several Hispano land grants in the upper Rio Puerco drainage whose further degradation threatened to silt up Elephant Butte Reservoir. The partition of this area for the exclusive use of Native Americans drew an immediate reaction from Hipano villagers who petitioned the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to protest the withdrawal of lands they traditionally grazed. Their protest alerted federal and state officials that they could not undertake a program of Native American land reform without considering the interests of rural Hispano settlements as well.
As a result, a series of studies were commissioned by the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) under whose direction all activities regarding soil erosion were consolidated. One such study in north central New Mexico "revealed the acute suffering of the Hispanic villagers, their extremely limited agricultural resources, and the extent to which they depended on wage labor to sustain themselves." Another study concluded "the national interest would be best served by protecting the indigenous non-commercial rural population in the possession of its land and making available to it the feasible maximum of use-rights to renewable resources controlled and administered by the federal government." ("The Availability of Land Resources in the Española Valley", Soil Conservation Service, December 1936. According to Forrest, many of these studies "were ordered destroyed during the conservative McCarthyite backlash of the 1950s".) Interestingly, there was also a study undertaken by the Resettlement Administration to address the issue of Hispano rights under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Pueblo Lands Board Act of 1924.
As a result, the more progressive advocates for land reform, including Collier and Eshref Shevky (who authored several of these pioneering studies and monographs) realized that the real battle for access to grazing land and natural resources in New Mexico was not between Hispano villagers and Native Americans but between commercial stockmen and timber interests and non-commercial subsistence populations, both Native American and Hispano, throughout the region. Their efforts resulted in the creation of the Interdepartmental Rio Grande Advisory Committee, which was charged with "resolving the land problems of the area for the benefit of the non-commercial population and devising ways and means of protecting and enlarging their basic agricultural resources." In its first report, issued in 1937, the committee recommended expanding use-rights for Native American and Hispano communities on lands already in the federal domain and the acquisition of new lands, for the same purpose, under the recently enacted Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act.
The federal government's land acquisition program targeted old Hispano land grants which had fallen into private hands after their adjudications. (Ironically, many of these grants were for sale because unscrupulous lawyers and land speculators gained control of them by taking advantage of the legitimate owners during the adjudication process. In some cases, because the original owners spoke only Spanish and were often illiterate, they were completely unaware of these legal proceedings.) Under various New Deal programs, the government acquired all or part of the Juan José Lobato Grant, the Polvadera Grant, the Sebastian Martín Grant, the Caja del Rió Grant, the La Majada Grant, the San José Grant, the Gabaldón Grant, the Ramon Vigil Grant, the Ortiz Mine Grant, the Abiquiú Grant, the Tierra Amarilla Grant, the Anton Chico Grant and the F.M. Vigil Grant. By 1943, when the Farm Security Administration's (FSA) Tenant Purchase Program was discontinued because of the war effort, the FSA, Forest Service and SCS were managing several hundred thousand acres under a mandate to benefit the members of these land grant communities.
However, after the war, commercial stockmen and timber interests renewed their efforts to gain access to these lands by bringing political and economic pressure to bear on the Department of Agriculture, which oversaw all of the New Deal Land Utilization Program management agencies. In 1946 Forrest documents "Congress ordered the FSA to transfer its lands to another agency or sell them to the highest bidder. With time running out the FSA passed its lands on to the Forest Service which signed a memorandum of understanding to the effect that it would uphold the Land Utilization policies and terms of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act under which the lands had been acquired."
While Forrest maintains that there were members of the Forest Service who entered into this agreement in good faith, as early as 1947 the ranger in Vallecitos (where the controversial Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit was established by an act of Congress in 1948 to specifically benefit the local residents) "suggested that the policy of favoring local residents when allotting grazing and timber resources was a fallacy and should be changed in favor of [a] large operator." In response to this assertion, the Regional Office in Albuquerque replied " . . . any major change should be a slow process rather than to discontinue consideration of the poorer dependents." In other words, the Forest Service intended to gradually discontinue the land utilization policies in order to avoid being held accountable for undermining their intent. (In fact, the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit was managed to benefit Duke City Lumber, a subsidiary of a multi-national corporation, until local residents sued both Duke City and the Forest Service in the early 90s and won judgements against both of them.)
Not surprisingly, the growing reactionary forces which led to McCarthyism were also enlisted to discredit the New Deal land reform movement. In a letter to the assistant to the Attorney General, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote, " . . . the entire [FSA] program appeared to be one that was Communistically inspired with the idea in mind of obtaining control of large tracts of land and operating them on the Communistic idea of property being held by the state . . ."
By 1960 most of the New Deal Land Utilization policies had been covertly undermined by the Forest Service in order to benefit commercial stockmen, corporate timber interests, and the newly burgeoning recreation industry. Finally, Forrest points out, "In September 1962 the terms of Title III of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act were amended [by Congress] to bring the administration of all Land Utilization properties in line with the rules and regulations applying to other National Forest lands." Thus vast tracts of land appropriated from Spanish and Mexican land grants for the purpose of benefiting the original grantees were raped by commercial timber interests, degraded by commercial stockmen, and transformed into playgrounds for privileged urban dwellers. Is it any wonder that a large segment of the Hispano and Native American populations of New Mexico view the Forest Service, "as uniformed occupational troopers guarding the spoils of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo . . . "?
We want to thank all of you who sent in subscriptions to support La Jicarita News. This thank you also extends to those who sent in subscriptions prior to our fund drive and those who have supported us over the years (a special thanks to Vicki Gabin, one of our most loyal readers). We would also like to thank Trudy and Ed Healy of Taos, who came through with foundation funding for us in this critical time (and have supported us over the last few years as well). With your help we plan to be around for 2004, bringing you the latest information about issues that concern all of us who live in el norte.
Copyright 1996-2002 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.