A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Mark Schiller, 1948 to 2010: My Co-Editor and Comrade in Arms By Kay Matthews
A Tribute to Mark Schiller: By Malcolm Ebright, Center for Land Grant Studies
A Community Organizer: By Jake Kosek, Professor of Geography, University of California, Berkeley
On the Muckraking of Mark Schiller: A Retrospective By David Correia, Visiting Professor, American Studies, University of New Mexico
By Kay Matthews
As many of you know, my co-editor and partner Mark Schiller died on November 27, 2010 of pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed in August of 2009 but was able to keep writing for La Jicarita News until the summer of 2010. Over the course of four months, from October 2009 through February 2010, we ran a series of his articles called a Brief History of American Imperialism that explored the causes of indigenous peoples' land dispossession in the United States, with particular regard to what occurred in New Mexico. With a grant that La Jicarita received from the New Mexico Historical Records Advisory Board Mark was also able to write an article that evaluated the effect George W. Julian's tenure as Surveyor General of the New Mexico Territory (1885-1889) had on the process of adjudicating Spanish and Mexican land grants. From April through July of 2010 we excerpted this 87-page work in La Jicarita.
Photo by Eric Shultz
At the Collaborative Stewardship Conference in 2002
Mark's special field of interest in the adjudication of Spanish and Mexican land grants in New Mexico extended to projects beyond the paper. He worked with land grant historian Malcolm Ebright on the Land Grant History Project to research and summarize all land grants for which there is documentation in the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives.These histories would then be made available to the public at the Archives, the Oñate Monument and Visitors Center, the Center for Land Grant Studies, and eventually in book form. In 2006, with another grant from the New Mexico Historical Records Advisory Board Mark wrote an investigation of the Court of Private Land Claims land title records regarding community land grant adjudication. He planned to incorporate this work, along with his evaluation of George W. Julian, into a book. He also participated in a team of researchers with New Mexico Legal Aid to address the General Accounting Office Report on Community Land Grants.
But his work for La Jicarita News, and his daily life in nothern New Mexico, addressed many other issues and concerns as well. He served as a commissioner on the Acequia Abajo de El Valle for over 10 years and was instrumental in securing the funding for and overseeing the building of a new presa for the acequia in 2000. He worked with his fellow commissioners and New Mexico Legal Aid to challenge the Forest Service's claim that acequias need to obtain special use permits to work on ditches and headgates that lie within the boundaries of the National Forest.
Acequia commissioner, cleaning the Acequia Abajo de El Valle
Photo by Eric Shultz
With Max Córdova at a forest restoration site
Mark collaborated closely with norteño activists throughout the 1990s to challenge urban environmentalists who tried to prevent or restrict community access to forest products and Forest Service policies that degraded land, water, and forest resources.
He guided the paper's advocacy for workers' compensation at Los Alamos National Laboratory under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEIOCPA). Along with many other New Mexicans and advocates all over the country who were tying to to expand the category of individuals eligible for compensation, improve the procedures for providing compensation, and improve transparency, Mark attended countless meetings and wrote numerous articles documenting the struggle.
Mark and I first moved to El Valle in 1992 from another land grant community, Placitas, which had grown into a suburb of Albuqueruqe. We wanted to live in a more rural community, and we certainly found that in El Valle, a village of approximately 20 families, part of Las Trampas Land Grant. We raised our two sons here, fixed up the unfinished house we bought, grew hay, fruit, and vegetables on our ten acres watered by two acequias, helped found the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition, and began publishing La Jicarita News in 1996. That led to us to the wide community of norteños who were working on social and environmental justice issues all over el norte. Over the life of the paper we met and befriended an amazing range of people: La Raza Unida founders; community foresters; land grant activists and historians; acequia leaders; organic wheat and vegetable farmers; community radio producers; writers and editors; anti-nuclear leaders; Sierra Club activists; ranchers and grazing advocates; pueblo leaders; social justice and environmental lawyers; foundation directors; academics; Forest Service and other public agency employees; and many, many more folks who live and work in northern New Mexico.
Receiving media award from Taos Soil and Water Conservation District
Mark and I were partners for 34 years. We were comrades in arms over the 15-year history of La Jicarita News. We funcioned as both publisher and editor, wrote most of the articles (thank you to all the other writers who shared their expertise with us for little or no pay), raised all the grant money to fund publication, organized and covered meetings, protests, and conferences, recruited subscribers, and did the bulk mailing and distribution. The paper was our brainchild and attempt to speak truth to power (and to each other, as we collaborated on and edited each other's work). I don't know if I will be able to continue publishing the paper without Mark; I'll decide over the next few months. In any event, I will publish at least one more issue after this one. Muchisimas gracias to all our loyal subcribers and readers over these 15 years. It's been an amazing ride.
By Malcolm Ebright, Center for Land Grant Studies
Mark Schiller was one of the most passionate writer/activists I have ever known when it came to issues of social justice. Not only was he passionate about social justice, he was extremely focused about connecting history with on-the-ground activism; with connecting the lonely art of scholarship with the frustrating practice of bringing the lessons of history to bear on real life problems like loss of land grant land and disputes over water. To live such a passionate, focused life might mean studying ancient documents and writing about them in the morning, checking on the acequia to see why the water is low in the afternoon, and attending an acequia or land grant meeting in the evening, all in one day. Mark was on the acequia commission for the Acequia Abajo de El Valle and attended many meetings with Forest Service employees and other representatives of the U.S. government. In the numerous articles he and Kay Matthews wrote about these attempts to help community people deal with the Forest Service, the BLM, or local officials, there is a distinct sense of frustration with bureaucratic regulations, difficulties in obtaining commitments from these officials, and broken promises once these commitments are obtained. Probably the greatest frustration is with the subtle or not so subtle hypocrisy of those who say one thing and do another; of those who do not walk their talk; of those who actually do the opposite of what they say. Thus, Mark was the perfect person to write about Surveyor General George Washington Julian and his mini-adjudication of sixteen New Mexico land grants in Julian's article, "Land Stealing in New Mexico."
Another aspect of Mark's character that stood him in good stead in writing this critique of Julian was the breadth of Mark's learning and culture. He was as familiar with Miles Davis as he was with Johann Sebastian Bach, with Herman Melville and Henry David Thoreau as with Charles Dickens. Although he never mentions it in the article, George Washington Julian emerges from Mark's study looking like a character out of Dickens, such as Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times, who was so obsessed with so-called "facts" that he squeezed the heart and soul out of whatever he was dealing with. By seeing Julian through Mark's eyes, we see someone who had a touch of the reformer, believing in Jeffersonian small land holdings for the yeoman farmer, but whose primary motive "was to promote white Anglo-Saxon business and agriculture interests through expansionism." We see someone whose anti-slavery sentiments hid a deep-seated racism. And we see someone who could be so out of touch with the culture, history, and laws of the people whose land rights he was adjudicating that he could refer to "the prevailing tendency [of the people] here to degenerate into barbarism," and wrote when his job was terminated that "the way was open at last for a final escape from this God-forsaken land."
Mark begins his article with an examination of Julian's background and concludes with a detailed analysis of the sixteen land grants he reexamined as Surveyor General of New Mexico. As Mark explains, Julian came to New Mexico in 1885, appointed by President Grover Cleveland to break up the Santa Fe Ring. He reexamined thirty-five land grants that had been recommended for continuation and submitted new reports on each one. These reports were not binding on the government, but his recommendations that twenty-two of those grants be rejected, instead of confirmed as previously determined, had a great influence on the Court of Private Land Claims. The lawyer for the Land Claims Court, Matthew Reynolds, used many of the same arguments first put forth by Julian, often causing the rejection of perfectly valid grants. Mark analyzes Julian's reasoning in sixteen of those cases and shows where Julian went astray in almost every one.
There is not enough space to go into detail about each of the land grants Mark studied, but I would like to summarize the points that Mark makes in his analysis of Julian's opinions and briefly show how Mark ties these to Julian's character. Julian is described as a man with "the soul of a cynic and misanthrope &endash; one of the brightest, greatest, meanest of mankind." He is also described as a don Quixote tilting at windmills and a man with a stubborn refusal to face facts. Finally, the Indianapolis Journal, in a Dickensian flourish, described Julian as a man with "the temper of a hedgehog, the adhesiveness of a barnacle, the vanity of a peacock, the vindictiveness of a Corsican . . . and the duplicity of the Devil." Even taking into account the journalistic exaggeration of the day, not many in New Mexico would have argued with this characterization of a man affectionately known as "Old Malaria."
Mark shows how these traits caused Julian to be entirely misled in his zeal to cut back on the acreage of land continued as Spanish and Mexican land grants. As Mark shows, even though the Surveyor General was bound to apply the law and custom prevailing in New Mexico at the time the grant was made, he had no idea what that law or custom was. When Julian cites cases to back up his conclusions they are invariably cases from U.S. rather than Spanish courts. The precedents followed by the Surveyors General who preceded him were arbitrarily done away with by Julian. No longer could we presume the existence of a valid grant if there was a settlement on the grant and no longer could we presume the authority of the granting official. Instead, grants were strictly construed against the claimant. As Mark points out in his article, the burden was on the land grant claimant to prove the validity of his grant. Some of the bogus reasons Surveyor General Julian used to recommend rejection of valid land grants were that the grant document was invalid because it was a copy made by the wrong official, or that the grant was valid but the government survey included too much land. Seldom if ever did Julian visit the site and make a judgment regarding the location of the landmarks described in the grant documents. Rather, Julian always assumed that if a lesser amount of land could be included in the survey then that was what the granting officials intended.
Julian did not feel compelled to follow logic in his recommendations, especially when it came to the question of common lands within a land grant. Julian would often blindly state that it was not the intention of the governor or the alcalde to include the common lands within the grant. As Mark shows, this form of rhetoric &endash; "saying it makes it so" &endash; is what Julian was often reduced to. The land grants discussed in some detail in Mark's article were: Cañon de Perdenales, Las Encinas, Cañada Ancha, Cañon de Chama, Las Vegas, San Miguel del Vado, Estancia, Ignacio Chavez, Socorro, Bernardo Miera y Pacheco and Padilla, Cañada do Cochiti, San Joaquin del Nacimiento, José Sutton, Arroyo de Lorenzo, Vallecito de Lovato, and Bernabé M. Montaño.
When Mark started writing this article about George Washington Julian he set himself the task of determining whether Julian was "a dedicated reformer who acted justly in his recommendations . . . or a colonial bureaucrat bent upon keeping as much land in the public domain as possible." At the end of his analysis, Mark found neither of these alternatives to be true. Instead, he found that Julian was "too self-absorbed, delusional, and vindictive to represent any ideology but his own perverse form of Calvinist Jeffersonianism." At the end of his article, Mark quotes what the Santa Fe New Mexican had to say about Julian when his tenure was cut short by Cleveland's defeat in the 1888 presidential election. "Everybody wore a smile this morning . . . all on account of the news of Julian's removal."
May we all wear a smile remembering the scholarship, advocacy, and wide-ranging love of life exemplified by Mark Schiller.
By Jake Kosek, Professor of Geography, University of California, Berkeley
I came to know Mark and his partner Kay while working on my Ford-funded dissertation research on race and class in forest politics in northern New Mexico. Very quickly, before I even met him, community activists, U.S. Forest Service officials, and environmentalists all pointed me to Mark as a central resource for understanding the details involved in community and environmental concerns. The reason for this was simple: because of his deep and intimate connections to community politics he gained the respect of a large group of people &endash; particularly rural community members &endash; involved in these issues. After two years of ethnographic research in northern New Mexico, during which I interviewed over 250 community members, leaders, and activists, a wide diversity of state and federal officials, non-profit directors, organizers, and program officers, I found no one more knowledgeable about the community politics of the area.
Since that time I have continued to follow northern New Mexico politics and have observed how the focus has broadened from an initial focus on community forestry initiatives and water rights debates to struggles over rural livelihood and land use. In all these cases Mark has been at the forefront, informing individuals about how these issues will affect rural communities, organizing efforts to engage in thoughtful dialog, and helping the communities of northern New Mexico try to control their own destinies. Moreover, I also have used Mark and Kay's community newspaper La Jicarita News and examples of their style of leadership in my classes on environmental justice to help students see the changing forms and practices of community struggles and community leadership related to social justice and the environment.
Through these experiences I came to know Mark very well and considered him an unparalleled example of thoughtful and dedicated community leadership.
Mark's work centered around the intersections of social justice and natural resource issues. On the broadest level these are issues of poverty, racial exclusions, environmental contamination, and ecosystem destruction. More specifically, over the last 15 years his work encompassed a broad range of issues: preventing a strip mine that threatened to destroy Native American cultural sites and pollute vital water ways; limiting a ski area expansion that would deplete agricultural water rights and gentrify national forest communities; planning and raising funds to repair traditional acequia systems; demanding accountability from public lands and state agencies; and developing alternatives that would allow more sustainable use of federal lands by some of the poorest rural citizens in the U.S.
This ability to work on many different issues was perhaps the most telling aspect of Mark's leadership. He did not live in Santa Fe and foccus on a single issue (as is the case with many environmental activists) but he lived in rural New Mexico for almost 30 years and was an integral member of the community, actively engaged as a friend and neighbor. His ability to take strong and principled stands on difficult issues and to stay the course over the long term against seemingly impossible odds was an important aspect of what set him apart as a strong community leader. But what is even more rare was his ability to couple these relationships and commitments with his capacity to engage as a public intellectual.
In short, he walked the line between what are often seen as opposing interests, finding a new way to work toward a specific understanding of place, people, and community that conserves people's land rights and dignity while protecting the forest from abuse by large industrial interests and inadequate federal programs. This is not done with political bargaining, as so many leaders do who sell their principles for shallow compromises. Mark garnered respect because he had the ability to really listen to others while not compromising his convictions that environmental protection cannot be achieved without social justice and that efforts to achieve greater social equity must strengthen the intimate ties between people, resources, and the landscapes upon which they depend. Compromises in northern New Mexico that do not respect these tenets are not only likely to fail, they are likely to diminish the possibilities of futures that integrate justice and nature.
Mark made a powerful leader because of his ability to stand up when a strong voice needed to be heard as well as step back and quietly support others. Three aspects of his leadership stand out in my experience: his deep compassion for people and landscapes of northern New Mexico; his respect for the people he worked with; and an unwavering commitment to social justice. As long-time northern New Mexico activist Ike DeVargas said to me during an interview, "There is no I would rather have on my side in an uphill battle than Mark and Kay, and all the struggles for justice in northern New Mexico are uphill battles." Max Córdova, former president of the Truchas Land Grant and director of La Montana de Truchas, a community forestry program, stated, "Mark and Kay are not only some of the most dedicated and hard working people I have ever worked with, they combine this hard work with a respect for people. This makes them not only good community organizers but also good friends."
The New Mexico Organic Farming Conference will be held on Friday, February 18, and Saturday, February 19, from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, at the Marriott Albuquerque Pyramid North, 5151 San Francisco Road, NE in Albuquerque. The conference is sponsored by Farm to Table, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission, and New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service. You may register online at www.farmtotablenm.com.
The Questa Ranger District of Carson National Forest is currently accepting public comment regarding the proposed action for Phase I of Taos Ski Valley's 2010 Master Development Plan. The proposal includes two new lifts; access to heavily treed (gladed) areas within the lift-served trail network; the Taos Adventure Center, a snowtubing and snowshoeing facility with yurt accomodations; a lift-served mountain bike trail; replacement of lifts 4, 5, and 7; a relocated guest and shuttle drop-off; and a reconfiguration of the eastern portion of the day parking lots. The proposed action, purpose, and need for action, along with maps of the propsed changes, can be downloaded at http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/carson. Send written comments to: Carson National Forest; Taos Ski Valley MDP Phase 1 Projects; 208 Cruz Alta Road; Taos, NM 87571 or e-mail to: email@example.com. "Taos Ski Valley MDP Phase 1 Projects" must be in the subject line of the e-mail.
Randy Forrester, Grants Administrator for the New Mexico Historical Records Advisory Board to Mark Schiller:
I just finished reading your 87-page article, the analysis of Surveyor General Julian's 1887 article in the North American Review. This is one of the best historical research articles that I have ever read. It is also the largest research article undertaken since I have been Grants Administrator for the New Mexico Historical Records Advisory Board. Not only does it deal with the specific land grants referenced in Julian's article, but it puts into context the regional and national factors impinging on these decisions. While many, many people decry the purported injustices of the loss of land grant territory, seldom to they provide definitive evidence to back up their claims. You have provided that evidence in spades, but also acknowledge the few instances where Julian was correct. Truly an amazing work of historical scholarship. If you were so inclined, this would make an excellent talk for those concerned with this matter, of which there are many.
Congratulations on such an excellent work of historical research.
By David Correia, Visiting Professor, American Studies, University of New Mexico
"Northern New Mexico is under siege," announced the first issue of La Jicarita News in January of 1996. "Because of its water, timber, and mineral resources, and its extreme pristine beauty, many developers are looking to exploit our area in ways that will impair and ultimately destroy the traditional ways of life which have flourished in this area for hundreds of years. Government agencies are now actively promoting the area as a recreational playground without regard to the impacts on local communities. Water quality and water quantity are threatened. We have seen how these same issues have divided communities in the past. The purpose of this newspaper is to provide a forum for these concerns, so that efforts to protect our watershed and cultural heritage can be coordinated."
With that call, Mark Schiller and Kay Matthews launched La Jicarita News. They and their many collaborators have spent the fifteen years since that first issue placing the Forest Service, resource extractive industries, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), commercial and residential developers, cultural imperialists and opportunists of every stripe under siege. They have been relentless in their sustained attack on bourgeois environmentalism, bureaucratic malfeasance and capitalist ideology, the many-headed Hydra that has menaced New Mexico's mountain communities and forests. Their editorials have mocked the logic of a mainstream environmentalism that has cared only for its own class privilege; condemned the ideology of a leisure class that has treated the mountains like a playground and Chicano communities like irritating interlopers; and stalked (and often spooked) an establishment that "promoted globalization by severing peoples ties to the land."
A Mark Schiller byline has appeared above many of the articles and editorials La Jicarita News has published. In the 162 issues published in fifteen volumes from January of 1996 until his death in November of 2010, Mark's name appeared alongside more than 170 articles and essays. Nearly half of these were editorials. His first, co-written with Kay in February of 1997, considered the intractable fight that pitted forest &endash;dependent communities in el norte against environmental organizations in Santa Fe. In the essay Mark and Kay demanded that environmentalists "come to a consensus that the best way to protect our environment from exploitation by global corporations is to preserve our northern New Mexico communities as sustainable sanctuaries. As western lands become increasingly urbanized, cut up by resort developers and subdividers and sold at inflated prices, the last bastions of defense are viable, rural communities."
The only consensus environmental organizations came to, however, was to pursue a scorched earth legal policy. Small, cooperative logging operations went bankrupt. The Forest Service pulled firewood permits from desperate families. The reactionary logic of bourgeois environmentalism produced nothing more than the conditions for an intractable conflict and a firestorm of criticism from La Jicarita. An October 2000 editorial reminded La Jicarita's readers that "The environmental movement, like so many other single issue movements fails to analyze the underlying causes of environmental degradation and the impacts its absolutist policies like "zero cut", "zero cows", and instream flow have on land-based people and communities. These all or nothing policies don't distinguish between degradation wrought by corporate power and small-scale, community use of resources. By instituting policies that directly affect the economic base of rural communities they also fail to address &endash; and they often actually promote &endash; the urbanization and Disneyfication of northern New Mexico. Forest Guardians, by its own admission, has never sued a corporation, while its legal actions against small-scale timber sales and grazing has directly impacted the ability of the poorest, most disenfranchised people in the state to put food on the table."
The forest fights in New Mexico in the 1990s pitted environmentalists from Santa Fe and Chicano activists in the north in a battle that many saw as personal. Mark, however, thought otherwise. "Capitalism is ruthless," he wrote in an April 2003 editorial titled "What Would Jesus Do?" (Mark never buried the lead); "The relentless assault of capitalism, now clothed in the guise of globalization, continues to politically marginalize the majority of the Earth's people and consume its resources at totally unsustainable rates. A tiny, financially empowered minority controls the majority of the Earth's resources. Moreover, our elected representatives, whose campaigns and careers are essentially underwritten by corporate dollars, do everything in their power to promote corporate agendas at the public's expense. At the same time, the mainstream press, whose primary job (at least in my mind) is to monitor the activities of business and government, is, in fact, owned and controlled by corporations with whom it conspires to distort or entirely suppress the truth about their activities."
His editorials, often co-written with Kay, are brilliant examples of polemical writing that swiftly and elegantly dismantle widely held views and reactionary politics. "Los capitalistas continue to divide and conquer," he wrote in 2006, "and la gente continues to pay the price." Or the 2008 editorial in which Mark and Kay explained the foreclosure crisis to their readers: "The intent of these [mortgage-backed securities] markets is not to generate goods and services that have intrinsic value &endash; food, shelter, health care, and education &endash; but to increase the wealth of capitalists, which in this country has created the greatest disparity between the rich and poor in the entire industrialized world. The wealthiest one per cent of the population owns more than the bottom 95 per cent."
But as powerful and entertaining as the editorials were, it was through the scores of monthly articles that Mark imagined alternatives and put in practice a politics of community-based struggle that defined him as a writer and a political activist. His was a journalism committed to taking "power back from commercial elites and their political lapdogs, by going to the streets, to the corporate headquarters, to the state legislatures, and to the parliaments of power to demand regime change of the elite, who have ruled with impunity for far too long" (10/2004).
He did this through hard and persistent work, writing article after article chronicling water fights, land use battles, Forest Service incompetence, LANL outrages, and mining company abuses. He wrote book reviews and covered county commission decisions. He investigated the State Engineer and analyzed Forest Service fire policy. He wrote about agricultural development and ski area expansions. He advocated for sick workers at LANL and foreclosed homeowners. And in the last year of his life delved deeply into the historical thicket of Spanish and Mexican land grants in northern New Mexico. These articles are the verse and prose of his politics and the editorials are the exclamation points.
Mark's first article in La Jicarita was a February 1996 essay titled "Water Adjudication" in which he made legible the legalese and labyrinthine logic of water law in New Mexico. Beware of "Adjudication" he warned, because it "can pit ditch associations which have histories of hundreds of years of cooperation against one another."
Over the next fifteen years he wrote twenty-five more articles about water issues in New Mexico. Those articles explained water law, discussed acequia politics, examined the agenda of the State Engineer, and more. His last article on water issues came in July of 2009. The article covered a trans-basin diversion recently reconstructed by parciantes of the Acequia de la Sierra in Peñasco. The essay is an important final example of the increasing commitment Mark brought to revisionist histories of New Mexico. The history of New Mexico was not a record of progress in the Mark Schiller oeuvre, but rather a story of structural inequality and resource exploitation. Mark did not valorize the bigwigs, barons, and businessmen of New Mexico, he ridiculed them. They were objects of scorn and scrutiny. His work focused on the structural roots of inequality and the everyday lives of farmers, sheepherders, acequia parciantes, and community and political activists in this struggle.
He also took on huge targets. Beginning in 2006 he, as well as Kay, wrote increasingly about LANL. Though he lamented in a May 2008 editorial that "LANL is New Mexico's federal cash cow and despite the fact that it's poisoning the land, water, and air, and many of its operations are in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it's essentially invulnerable," he did his best to undermine the comfortable political position of the Lab. In articles and editorials he revealed the human cost of the nuclear age: toxic waste; the cost to worker health; the racism of the LANL wage structure; the lack of federal oversight over LANL; and the Cerro Grande fire and the plumes of smoke that settled toxic ash over much of northern New Mexico.
After Mark was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the summer of 2009, his bylines in La Jicarita became less frequent. He began aggressive chemotherapy treatments that interrupted his work on the paper. His first byline after his diagnosis was a piece titled "A Brief History of American Imperialism, Part I" in which Mark dismantled the foundation of American Exceptionalism: "In point of fact, the 'founding fathers' were English ancestored, white male slave owners who employed a rationale of white supremacist entitlement to initiate a policy of colonial expansion that drove the national boundary west to the furthest limit of the North American continent and dispossessed or murdered everyone in its way."
The following month, in part II of the essay, Mark offered a different foundation. The "conceit that expansion was divinely ordained" was based, according to Mark, on "the racist presumption that the Anglo-Saxon race and its capitalist institutions were innately superior to all other races and cultures." The essay, as many of his did, shifted between the structural roots and practices of injustice and the consequences and everyday struggles under capitalism. "As we shall see," he concluded, "all of the legal and legislative actions discussed in this article served as precedents upon which the dispossession of the Indo-Hispano residents of New Mexico were predicated."
Parts III and IV of the essay narrated a history of imperialism that included an analysis of the U.S. &endash; Mexican War, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the Court of Private Land Claims (established in 1891). In Part IV he concluded that "[m]ore than ninety percent of the land adjudicated by the Court of Private Land Claims was rejected and over eighty percent of the land that was confirmed went to American lawyers, land speculators, and Anglo settlers rather than the legitimate Mexican owners. In keeping with its history of duplicity," he noted, "and in spite of the preponderance of evidence to the contrary, the government continues to assert (in the 2004 GAO Report) 'that there does not appear to be specific legal basis for relief.'"
In the last year of his life, he focused his working hours on a research project funded by the New Mexico Historical Records Advisory Board. A number of essays based on that research were serialized in La Jicarita and are summarized by Malcolm Ebright in this issue. The last of those articles, a July 2010 article, appeared under the title "Surveyor General George W. Julian: A Summary of Findings." It would also be his last article. As with the rest of his work, he took the opportunity to set the record straight. Historians have largely ignored Julian's role in the dispossession of Spanish and Mexican land grants in New Mexico. A few have even reinforced Julian's own view of himself as a reformer and champion of poor, landless farmers.
Through rigorous research and clear prose, Mark demonstrated the Julian "was clearly not concerned about protecting the rights of legitimate Mexican claimants, who he believed were an inferior race like the emancipated slaves he had outspokenly demanded be freed but then sought to colonize in Haiti after the Civil War rather than naturalize as citizens." Instead Julian laid the groundwork for dubious legal theories and opportunistic speculators who would try to put in practice Julian's vision for New Mexico: "Small land-holdings, thrifty tillage, and compact settlement will supersede great monopolies, slovenly agriculture and industrial stagnation," Mark wrote, quoting Julian. "The influx of an intelligent and enterprising [Anglo capitalist] population will insure the development of the vast mineral wealth of the Territory, as well as the settlement of her lands . . ."
There is much to admire in this essay. It is an example of rigorous scholarship with vivid and engaging writing. And what a last essay to give us. In it he tackles the most misunderstood man in nineteenth century New Mexico as it relates to the most intractable conflict of the next century. And that it came, as did the epic four-part essay on Imperialism, in the last year and a half of his life tells us everything we need to know about Mark Schiller. A man Karl Marx surely would have understood.
As Marx lay dying, an aide hurried into his bedroom to collect his last words, "Go on, get out," he demanded, "last words are for fools who haven't said enough."
Copyright 1996-2010 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.