Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521

Volume XIV

December 2009

Number XI


Current Issue




About Us




The Mother of All Water Rights Court Cases By Kay Matthews

Aamodt Settlement Update, Otra Vez By Kay Matthews

Sampling in the Rio Embudo Watershed By Sheri Kotowski

Mora County Gas and Development Update


American Imperialism, Part 3: The Mexican- American War By Mark Schiller

Congratulations Las Mujeras Hablan

The Mother of All Water Rights Court Cases

By Kay Matthews

There is a very interesting water rights case currently in district court that could have enormous consequences on Rio Grande adjudications. Judge Jerald Valentine has ordered the State of New Mexico and the U.S. Government to reach settlement on the issue of the Rio Grande Project, or Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID), to determine the amount of rights the federal government actually owns. Scott Boyd, whose great-grandfather Nathan Boyd originally owned the Rio Grande Company, is also party in the case along with a group of Doña Ana farmers.

One hundred years ago the federal government seized Nathan Boyd's Rio Grande Company, including all rights of way, the dam he had constructed to serve the irrigation needs of Lower Rio Grande (LRG) irrigators, and the water rights the farmers had already turned over to the company. It took this action under what is referred to as Application 8, citing the War Powers Act to make the claim that the Rio Grande was a navigable river above El Paso and Boyd's dam interfered with ship travel. This allowed the Bureau of Reclamation to proceed with construction of Elephant Butte Dam and the administration of LRG water rights. Those water rights, as stated in Application 8, were "all unappropriated water of the Rio Grande," obviously not including senior, or prior appropriation water rights.

However, the State of New Mexico then filed an application so that the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) could begin permitting these water rights, essentially commingling these senior, and subsequent junior, water rights. The OSE set a universal senior priority date of 1906, the date of Application 8.

In April of 2000 the state filed A Notice of Intent to Make an Offer of Judgment Describing the United States' Storage and Diversion Rights and Proprietary Claims in the Rio Grande Project. The U.S. District Court stayed the suit until the federal governments' water rights could be determined, however, after being assured that these rights could be "expeditiously" adjudicated in state court. Nine years later the state has yet to present an offer of judgment regarding the Elephant Butte water rights.

The case is now in Judge Valentine's court and he has ordered the feds and the state come to a settlement by April, but the state issued a status report citing that it "cannot predict how much time may be required for future negotiations on the issue." Meanwhile, the OSE continues to issue thousands of offers of judgement in water rights adjudications based on the Application 8 priority date.

Scott Boyd's motion in court asks that the case move forward and the federal government's water rights be adjudicated, rights that he, of course, believes are fraudulent. According to the motion, "Further delay adjudicating the rights of the United States in this proceeding can only compound what may prove to be a monumental waste of judicial resources."

Apparently, if the federal government and the state cannot reach a settlement Judge Valentine could rule on the feds' rights, which could affect water rights in the entire Rio Grande basin, as there were no declared basins in 1906 and therefore no boundaries between the lower, middle, and upper basins. Conceivably, if he determines that the federal government's water rights are nonexistent, the court could proceed with a standard adjudication of senior water rights, invalidating the state's permits for the entire Rio Grande.

While this seems a very unlikely scenario, Rebecca Miller, one of the farmers involved in the suit, stated in an interview with La Jicarita News: "With or without a settlement the U.S. government will have to reveal what water rights they actually own. EBID orignially took our water rights and continues to interfere with our ability to adjudicate our water rights under the priority doctrine."

Next month's La Jicarita will take a more detailed look at the origins and implications of this very complicated case (and correct any mistakes I made here).

Aamodt Settlement Update, Otra Vez

By Kay Matthews

In last month's La Jicarita News I wrote about the latest developments in the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act, which is now making its way through Congress. I was subsequently able to contact Santa Fe County contract attorney John Utton to ask him about the status of water rights the county has acquired to meet the terms of the settlement.

The water rights table Utton sent me listed the following categories: San Juan/Chama Project, 1,079 acre feet per year (afy); Nambe Reserved Right, 302; Top of the World, 1,752; domestic well transfers, 750. Of the 1,079 afy San Juan/Chama water, 300 afy was taken from the Taos Pueblo Settlement (Abeyta) in a negotiated deal, and the remaining 800 afy are Cochiti Lake contract water rights that were set aside to compensate for evaporation. It's interesting to note that in 2006, when water broker William Turner proposed diverting water from the Rio Grande that would normally evaporate off Cochiti (as well as Elephant Butte and Caballo) and sell it to New Mexico cities, the response of the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) was: "It is contrary to sound public policy for the state engineer to allow or encourage speculation in water." The OSE claims that evaporative rights are factored into the formula used to determine New Mexico's obligation to Texas as stipulated in the Rio Grande Compact. Turner claims that the evaporative losses are hidden in OSE accounting, and it's all paper water rights.

According to Utton, the County and Pueblos have agreed to put all the water rights into one pool and to share shortages. Of the total, the County will have 611 afy for new domestic and other water demands in the basin. The 750 afy is an estimate of the maximum potential of domestic well transfers into the water delivery system.

I also asked for a breakdown of each governments' share in the cost of the water delivery project. The federal government will pay $106.4 million (in 2006 dollars); the state of New Mexico, $45.5 million; and Santa Fe County, $7.4 million. The cost of hooking up the maximum number of customers over the life of the project is $18 million. Other costs include water rights acquisitions (the federal government is paying for 1,100 afy of the TOW water rights and the County for 600 afy for a total of $5.4 million), operation and management ($37.5 million), an impairment fund (part of the negotiated settlement, $500,000)), rehabilitation of existing Pueblo infrastructure ($15 million), and free initial hook-ups to the water system ($4 million).

The County plans to divert the water for the delivery system just north of the Otowi Bridge (and gauge) on San Ildefonso Pueblo. The original plan called for a Ranney horizontal collector, but according to the 76-page engineering report Utton also sent, the Pueblo objected that the collector would conflict with traditional uses, so now a direct diversion is planned.

When the TOW transfer was first promulgated in the late 1990s, the "move to" point was the Ranney collector, above Otowi Gauge, which divides the upper and middle Rio Grande basins and where streamflow is measured for our water delivery obligations to Texas, as stipulated by the Rio Grande Compact. Initially, the water was to be piped to the Buckman Well Field in Santa Fe County, but protestants to the TOW transfer pointed out that this would constitute a movement of water from above to below Otowi Gauge and affect the terms of the Compact. After Judge Edward Meechem's 2000 decision in the Aamodt adjudication that the pueblos are entitled to domestic water rights equal to the amount of water they used between 1846 and 1924, Senator Pete Domenici met with the pueblos and the Pojoaque Valley Irrigation District to promote a water delivery system that could provide all domestic water needs within the Pojoaque Valley. The County and OSE then changed their tune and said that the diversion at San Ildefonso Pueblo would deliver water only to this system, which is above Otowi Gauge.

Utton told me that the County plans to combine its two TOW water rights purchases into one application that will be made to the OSE after the federal legislation is passed.

TOW water rights continue to raise questions. La Jicarita got a call from Dick Rochester, a member of the Pojoaque Basin Water Alliance, which has long opposed the terms of the settlement, particularly the water delivery system to non-pueblo Pojoaque Valley residents. He sent a copy of the report on the status of TOW water rights that he and other Alliance members asked former state hydrologist Francis West to submit.

According to West, the groundwater conditions in the Sunshine Valley, where Top of the World Farm is located, are "very complex" and "unusual hydrologic conditions exist." Therefore, the effects of a transfer of these rights cannot be determined using a "one size fits all" template devised by the Office of the State Engineer for the Rio Grande. West's report states, "In the area of the TOW wells the aquifer varies from being perched to semi-perched and un-perched ["perched" water is groundwater that is unconfined and separated from an underlying main body of groundwater by an unsaturated zone]. Because of the complexity of this hydrology, West is of the opinion that there would "probably be a substantial increase in the time needed for the effects of pumping to hit the Rio [Grande] due to the perched nature of the aquifer. . . . The location of the move to 'well' makes the move tantamount to sucking the water directly out of the river. There has never been a philosophical problem of taking your surface water rights out of ground water, but turning a ground water right into a surface right has some scary implications." In other words, it is extremely difficult to calculate what the correlation is between the groundwater wells at TOW and the amount of water that will be pumped out of the Rio Grande for the water delivery system in the Aamodt settlement.

Sampling in the Rio Embudo Watershed

By Sheri Kotowski

In response to the Cerro Grande Fire of 2000 the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group (EVEMG) organized to gather environmental data that relates to radioactive emissions from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in our downwind, watershed communities. EVEMG has successfully established an independent database measuring airborne gamma radiation. EVEMG also partners with the New Mexico Environment Department LANL Oversight Bureau (NMED OB) in environmental sampling in the Rio Embudo Watershed. NMED OB is the state of New Mexico's watchdog for the LANL facility.

In the summer of 2005, at the request of EVEMG, the first collaborative project with NMED OB was implemented. The sampling project focuses on testing for radionuclides and heavy metals associated with the nuclear weapons industry in soil, water, and produce from the Rio Grande Valley up to the highest peaks in the Rio Embudo watershed. EVEMG holds local public meetings to discuss the findings of this project.

In 2007 our sampling project focused on undisturbed soil and farm soil. The sample that was collected near the Trampas Lakes, at an alpine elevation (11,400 ft) contained exceptional levels of cesium, strontium, and plutonium, all radioactive and toxic by-products of a nuclear reaction. According to LANL, the levels of radioactive materials at this high elevation are to be "expected" because of what is called "global fallout." This is the fine layer of radioactive dust spread over the earth from testing nuclear weapons. There is a higher concentration of "fallout" at higher elevations because they get more precipitation. The precipitation washes the dust out of the air and onto the ground. Nonetheless, "expected" does not equal safe. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the cesium level is over 3,000 times the safe level for growing food and is less than six miles from farmland.

Because of the close proximity of these high elevations to farmland, in 2008 EVEMG and NMED OB put together a sampling project that examines the watershed pathway that could transport the radioactive contamination into our farms and gardens by way of the rivers that feed the acequias. Our primary question was, "Is the contamination at high elevations moving down the watershed through the river?" We worked with NMED to develop a plan that would shed light on that question: this fall we sampled at 1,000-foot elevation increments from the Trampas Lakes down the Rio de las Trampas and Rio Embudo to the Rio Grande.

We took two soil samples at seven locations: one that describes soil primarily affected by what falls from the sky and one that would tell us what is deposited by the seasonal flow of the river. The results of this project, which we hope to have by the spring of 2010, will help us to understand impacts on our watershed from the nuclear weapons industry.

For more information please contact: Sheri Kotowski, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group, serit@cybermesa.com, 505.579.4076.

Mora County Gas and Development Update

Activists in the Mora area have set up a new list- serve called Community Power, building a coalition of community groups and individuals to focus on issues around oil and gas extraction in the surrounding Las Vegas Basin counties of Mora, San Miguel and Colfax. The site will also include information on the Rio Grande Basin counties of Rio Arriba, Taos, and Santa Fe.

Folks in Community Power have been in consultation with the Mora County Commission about how best to protect the county from the ravages of oil and gas drilling. A company has expressed interest in drilling in the Ocaté area and has already been in talks with landowners, some of whom have entered agreements to allow access (see La Jicarita News, July 2009).

The Mora County Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) is basically a document that details citizens' visions for the direction of Mora County. The Development Guidance System (DGS) is the county's laws regarding development and is based on the CLUP. The CLUP is being revised and the current draft has been approved by Mora County Planning and Zoning but has not been put in place by the county commission. It encourages protecting water, culture, land, and citizens as well as offering land use ideas that are compatible with the agricultural and farming history of Mora County. It also suggests implementing an oil and gas ordinance such as the one adopted by Santa Fe County. Currently, Bruce Frederick of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center is re-writing the Santa Fe Ordinance for Mora County.

On December 8 the neighboring San Miguel County Commission voted unanimously to publish a proposed year-long moratorium and seek public comment. While no permits for oil and gas drilling are pending before the county (although the State Land Office has already leased lands in the county), Commission Chairman David Salazar said he wants to make sure the county has sufficient rules in effect before companies come forward. As quoted in the Las Vegas Optic, Salazar said, "Sooner or later, we'll be having the same issues that Mora County is having, and we need to be satisfied with the regulations that we have."

Several other groups and websites provide information and education regarding the issue. Drilling Mora County (www.drillingmoracounty.blogspot.com) has been at the forefront of the struggle since drilling agreements were signed by some Ocate residents, and another website, www.northernnmconservationproject.com, provides information about the issue in both Mora and San Miguel counties, as well as the Santa Fe Oil and Gas Ordinance, which provides a useful template.





• A public workshop will be held on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) study of the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment Project (LAHDRA), an analysis of accidents and radioactive and chemical releases from the Lab, on Thursday, January 28, at Okay Owingeh Pueblo. It will be an all day workshop, beginning at 9:00 am with a reasonably priced box lunch. In the morning there will be a youth presentation, along with an update on the report by CDC and a presentation by Las Mujeres Hablan. The afternoon will include working groups with the CDC panel of experts and a discussion of how to move forward from this first step of information gathering to the process of reconstructing the dose of contaminants that local, and no doubt regional, New Mexicans have been exposed to throughout the history of LANL's operations. For more information you can contact Sheri Kotowski at 505 579-4076 or Joni Arends at 505 986-1973.

• The New Mexico Organic Farming Conference will be held on Friday, February 19 from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm and Saturday, February 20 from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm at the Marriott Albuquerque Pyramid North, 5151 San Francisco Road NE. Dr. Miley Gonzalez, Secretary for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, will give the Welcome, and Kathleen Merrigan, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary will give the Keynote address (she served on the USDA's National Organic Standards Board from 1995-99). Six workshops will focus on soil health, livestock, crops, weed and pest management, farm support, and market gardening. To obtain a registration form contact Le @ 505-473-1004 ext. 10 (Santa Fe) or Joanie @ 505-841-9067 (Albuquerque). You can also register online at www.farmtotablenm.org. Registration fees are $100 for both days and $65 for each day.

The $64,000 Dollar Question

"Why are we still in Afghanistan? Al Qaeda has been routed. Our occupations fuels a Taliban insurgency. The more troops we send, the more resistance we meet. The people of Afghanistan dson't want to be saved by us; they want to be saved from us. Our presence and our Predator drones kill countless innocents and destabilize Pakistan. The U.S-created Karzai government is hopelessly corrupt and despised by the Afghan people.

Our solution: Provide Afghan President Hamid Karzai with a high-level U.S. minder, which will make him even less legitimate. Another strategy: Buy or rent 'friends' among would-be insurgents and give them guns and cash. But when the money runs out, they shoot at U.S. soldiers. We've played all sides in Afghanistan, and all the sides want us out. They do not want our presence, our control, our troops, our drones, our way of life."

&endash; U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich

American Imperialism, Part 3: The Mexican- American War

By Mark Schiller

On 2 December 1845, in his annual message to Congress, President Polk forcefully reasserted the principle of the Monroe Doctrine by declaring the United States' presumptive right to occupy the entire North American continent stating, "The rapid extension of our settlements over our territories heretofore unoccupied [emphasis added], the addition of new States to our Confederacy, the expansion of free principles, and our rising greatness as a nation are attracting the attention of the powers of Europe, and lately the doctrine has been broached in some of them of a 'balance of power' on this continent to check our advancement. The United States, sincerely desirous of preserving relations of good understanding with all nations, can not in silence permit any European interference on the North American continent, and should any such interference be attempted will be ready to resist it at any and all hazards." By claiming that the United States was merely extending settlement into "our territories heretofore unoccupied", though all of the areas to which Polk was referring were occupied by Mexico or contested by Britain, he was clearly affirming the notion of a pre-ordained right to the entire continent.

An excerpt from an editorial in the New York Morning News on 13 October 1845 that discussed the admission of Texas into the union incorporates all of the specious rationales previously noted and makes the "tenor of the times" dramatically clear: "It has been laid down and acted upon, that the solitudes of America are the property of the immigrant children of Europe and their offspring. Not only has this been said and reiterated, but it is actually, although perhaps, not heretofore dwelt upon with sufficient directness, the basis of public law in America [emphasis added]. Public sentiment with us repudiates possession without use, and this sentiment is gradually acquiring the force of established public law. It has sent our adventurous pioneers to the plains of Texas, will carry them to the Rio del Norte [Rio Grande], and even that boundary, purely nominal and conventional as it is, will not stay them on their march to the Pacific, the limit which nature has provided. In like manner it will come to pass that the confederated democracies of the Anglo American race will give this great continent as an inheritance to man. . . . We take from no man; the reverse rather &endash; we give to man. This national policy, necessity or destiny, we know to be just and beneficent, and we can, therefore, afford to scorn the invective and imputations of rival nations. With the valleys of the Rocky Mountains converted into pastures and sheep-folds, we may with propriety turn to the world and ask, whom have we injured?"

Nor was it just yellow journalists who gave voice to this jingoistic expansionist mania. Intellectual elites, including Whitman and Melville, clearly endorsed both expansionism and its racist underpinnings. In his 1850 novel White Jacket Melville stated, "And we Americans are the peculiar, chosen people &endash; the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. Seventy years ago we escaped from thrall; and, besides our first birth-right &endash; embracing one continent of earth &endash; God has given to us, for a future inheritance, the broad domains of the political pagans, that shall yet come and lie down under the shade of our ark. . . . God has predestinated, mankind expects, great things from our race. . . . The rest of the nations must soon be in our rear. We are the pioneers of the world; the advance-guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path in the New World that is ours. . . . . At a period when other nations have but lisped, our deep voice is heard afar. Long enough have we been sceptics with regard to ourselves, and doubted whether, indeed, the political Messiah had come. But he has come in us, if we would but give utterance to his promptings, And let us always remember that with ourselves, almost for the first time &endash; almost for the first time in the history of the earth &endash; national selfishness is unbounded philanthropy; for we can not do a good to America but we give alms to the world."

Polk's 1845 inaugural address, however, made explicit the underlying motive for western expansion, stating it would open "new and ever increasing markets . . . ." His 1847 annual message to Congress following the annexation of the northern half of Mexico amplified that idea stating, "In this vast region, whose resources are soon to be developed by American energy and enterprise, great must be the augmentation of our commerce and with it new and valuable markets for our manufactures and agricultural products."

As Polk's speeches confirm, the primary motive for all imperialist aggression is economic, and the government prioritized its expansionist agenda based upon the projected economic value of potential acquisitions. Thus, despite all the attention given the annexations of Texas and the Oregon Territory, and the debate over the western boundary of the Louisiana Purchase, it was acquisition of west coast ports, particularly San Francisco and Monterey, which the corporate elite who controlled the government believed were the key to the immensely lucrative Pacific trade, that were the primary motivation for the Mexican-American War. Northeastern merchants associated with the whaling and sealing industry had long been pressuring the government to secure Pacific ports to facilitate expansion of the Asian trade that their established fleets could dominate.

In response, the federal government commissioned Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes in 1838 to survey the Pacific, giving special attention to the port of San Francisco. Wilkes, whose voyage lasted until 1842, reported that the Pacific coast "possessed as it must be by the Anglo-Norman race" offered ports that "have . . . within themselves everything to make them increase, and keep up an intercourse with the whole of Polynesia, as well as the countries of South America on the one side, and China, the Philippines, New Holland, and New Zealand, on the other. Among the latter, before many years, may be included Japan. Such various climates will furnish the materials for a beneficial exchange of products, and an intercourse that must, in time, become immense while this western coast . . . is evidently destined to fill a large space in the world's future history."

Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, one of the leading voices for expansion, writing to his son in 1845 regarding the annexation of Texas, which would occur later that same year, suggested that the port of San Francisco alone was ". . . twenty times more valuable . . . than all of Texas." After the successful annexation of California, the Secretary of the Navy's annual report for 1853 stated, "A new empire has, as by magic, sprung into existence. San Francisco promises, at no distant day, to become another New York, and our prosperous trade in the Pacific, amid the wonders of commerce, [promises] to bear the same relationship to China and Japan, which that of the Atlantic coast bears to the continent of Europe and Great Britain." While the government was well aware that Texas, New Mexico, and the Oregon Territory held economic and strategic value, there can be no mistake that California was its primary objective.

With Mexico's hold on its northern territories becoming increasingly tenuous and the boundary dispute with Britain over the Oregon Territory still pending (the Oregon Treaty, setting the boundary between the United States and Canada at the 49th parallel, wasn't signed until June of 1846) Polk feared Britain would declare California a protectorate and he took pre-emptive military and diplomatic actions to trump Britain and prepare for a confrontation with Mexico. First he directed General Zachary Taylor "to defend Texas to the Rio Grande but to remain 'near' the Nueces [river in southwestern Texas]," which the Mexican government tacitly acknowledged as the western boundary of Texas although it refused to acknowledge its independence.

Next he dispatched Captain John C. Frémont, with a cadre of sixty-two troops, to California with instructions "to foil England by carrying the war now imminent with Mexico into the territory of California." Once he established himself there, Frémont was able to engage a group of Americans who had already immigrated into the territory [the so called "Bear Flag" insurgents] and together they marched to the Port of Monterey to await further orders. At the same time the administration dispatched warships to reinforce the existing Pacific fleet with orders to seize the ports of San Francisco and Monterey should war break out.

Finally, Polk sent envoy John Slidell to Mexico City in an effort to purchase as much of Mexico's northern territories (including all of New Mexico and California) as that government would be willing to sell, but at the very least to secure the Rio Grande as the western boundary of Texas.

Learning in January of 1846 that Slidell's mission was a complete failure, Polk ordered Taylor's army to advance to the Rio Grande in a brazen effort to provoke the Mexican government into firing the first shot and "initiating" the war that the federal government clearly desired and for which it was well prepared. The Mexican government took the bait. In the spring of 1846 Mexican General Mariano Arista, whose troops were stationed along the Rio Grande, having unsuccessfully demanded Taylor's army withdraw, attacked and killed or wounded sixteen American soldiers. Polk now had his excuse. He hurriedly assembled Congress and his cabinet and speciously declared the United States had been invaded, American blood had been spilled, and that a state of war, " . . . notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it, exists by act of Mexico . . . ."

The war itself was a foregone conclusion. Though there were hard fought battles, the Mexican government, divided by years of internal strife mustered little significant resistance and the two main objectives, California and New Mexico, were under American control within six months of the initial confrontation. In fact, Polk, fearing the growing popularity of war hero and potential political rival General Zachary Taylor, who won crucial battles at Matamoros, The Town of Monterrey, and Buena Vista, actually postponed the decisive victory at Mexico City and had the politically innocuous General Winfield Scott, whose army came ashore at Vera Cruz, take the city rather than Taylor. By mid-September 1847 the war was over and the task of negotiating a treaty loomed on the horizon.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

Even before the war had actually ended, Polk appointed and dispatched a diplomatic envoy to negotiate a settlement. Just as Polk feared Zachary Taylor's war heroics might provide impetus for a political rival, he also feared these negotiations might provide an opportunity for his political rivals to score points with the electorate. It was with this in mind that he chose Nicholas P. Trist, the chief clerk of the Department of State, a man with no political ambitions, who was fluent in Spanish and "familiar with the Spanish character."

Trist was entrusted with a draft treaty by Secretary of State James Buchanan that contained eleven articles, none of which guaranteed the recognition of Spanish and Mexican land grants. However, he was also granted "full powers" to negotiate with the Mexican authorities and instructed not to object if the Mexicans requested such a guarantee.

Formal negotiations began during an armistice in August of 1847 and continued over six months with the recognition of land grants being one of the primary sticking points. Finally, on February 2, 1848 Trist and three Mexican commissioners signed a twenty-three article treaty in the city of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Article X of that treaty stated in part, "All grants of land made by the Mexican Government or by the competent authorities, in territories previously appertaining to Mexico and remaining for the future within the limits of the United States, shall be respected as valid, to the same extent that the same grants would be valid, if the said territories had remained within the limits of Mexico."

However, after the signed treaty was reviewed by Polk and his cabinet on February 20, it was sent to the Senate with the recommendation that the Article X be stricken because, Polk asserted, provisions within the Article left the door open for the presentation of land claims whose titles the United States' government considered incomplete or void. More importantly, as I'll discuss in next month's issue, Polk wanted to keep the language regarding property rights vague so that it would more easily be subject to the interpretation of Congress and the courts. After a short debate regarding whether to negotiate an entirely new treaty, the Senate struck Article X from the text and ratified the amended Treaty.

On March 18 Secretary of State Buchanan wrote a note to the Mexican Minister explaining that "The present Treaty [with Article X deleted] provides amply and specifically in its 8th and 9th Articles for security of property of every kind belonging to Mexicans, whether acquired under Mexican grants or otherwise in the acquired territory. The property of foreigners under our Constitution and laws, will be equally secure without any Treaty stipulation."

Either the Mexican Senate took Buchanan at his word or more probably, its members, faced with enormous internal strife, wanted to settle the issue as expeditiously as possible in order to collect the $15 million dollars promised in the settlement agreement. Thus, it ratified the amended Treaty on May 25 without the specific protections for land grants outlined in Article X. Not surprisingly, given its subsequent economic and political subjugation by the United States, the Mexican government has been unresponsive to the entreaties of the New Mexico land grant community to demand legal redress in international court for the injustices that subsequently occurred.

Congratulations Las Mujeras Hablan

Editor's Note: The following appears on the website of the Nobel Women's Initiative (http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/blogs/16days), honoring the work of the northern New Mexico group Las Mujeras Hablan. The Initiative was founded by six women Nobel Peace Laureates in 2006 to work in a united effort for peace with justice and equality.

Meet Las Mujeres Hablan (The Women Speaking)

Las Mujeres Hablan is a network of local activists working in Northern New Mexico, USA, to protect their peoples and lands from the nuclear weapons industry. The women work locally for global disarmament. Since 1943, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has occupied the sacred ancestral homelands of the Pueblo Peoples and displaced Hispanic homesteaders with the establishment of the Manhattan Project on the Pajarito Plateau in the Jemez Mountains.

Over the past decade, the U.S. Department of Energy, which owns LANL, has pushed to expand manufacturing of plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads to 450 per year. Las Mujeres Hablan played a pivotal role in mobilizing disenfranchised downwind and downstream communities to successfully limit production to 20 triggers per year. Nevertheless, LANL is the only U.S. facility that manufactures plutonium triggers.

The women attribute much of their success to self-training on the technical issues of the nuclear weapons industry. They say that this knowledge has been essential for building working relationships and influencing key federal and state decision makers. Their work looks not only at the impacts of LANL today, but on future generations. The group includes: Joni Arends, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety; Marian Naranjo, Honor Our Pueblo Existence; Sheri Kotowski, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group; Kathy Sanchez and Beata Tsosie-Pena, Tewa Women United; Holly Beaumont, New Mexico Conference of Churches;Paula Garcia and Quita Ortiz, New Mexico Acequia Association; and Clarissa Duran, Community Service Organization del Norte.



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