Governor rescinds territorial orders targeting Native Americans

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) – The governor of New Mexico on Monday rescinded four pre-state proclamations that targeted Native Americans during what was a tumultuous time across the western border as federal soldiers tried to defeat Navajos, Apaches and others.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham described 19th century proclamations by former territorial governors as offensive, saying rescinding the proclamations would help heal old wounds and strengthen ties with Native American communities.

“The government of New Mexico has not always respected the importance and sovereignty of our Native American citizens, and our history is sadly marred by the cruel mistreatment of Native Americans,” Lujan Grisham wrote in an executive order issued on the day of Indigenous Peoples.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat seeking re-election, pointed to counties in the territory that once offered bounties for the scalps of Apache men and women.

Marches, demonstrations and celebrations took place across the United States to mark Indigenous Peoples Day. In New Mexico’s capital, Santa Fe, people marched with banners aimed at raising awareness for missing and killed Native Americans. Protesters left paint splatters on a monument to Kit Carson, who played a role in the deaths of hundreds of Native Americans during the settlement of the West.

A celebration in Flagstaff, Arizona, focused on young people who spoke about how Indigenous peoples have contributed to the community. A group of Hopi children performed a corn dance in front of City Hall.

In New Mexico, the unwinding of past proclamations was spurred by Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ decision in 2021 to rescind an 1864 order from one of that state’s territorial governors that ultimately led to the Sand Creek Massacre. , when US troops killed more than 200 people. Native Americans in one of Colorado’s darkest and most charged historical times.

A search for similar records led Valerie Rangel, the resident city historian of Santa Fe, to a book of newspaper clippings in the archives of the Huntington Library in California. It represented the most comprehensive collection of New Mexico territorial proclamations.

Two of the proclamations rescinded by Lujan Grisham were issued in 1851 by James S. Calhoun, the first territorial governor of New Mexico. They ordered Native Americans to be excluded from official censuses and authorized militias to “pursue and attack any hostile tribes” who entered the settlements for the purpose of plunder.

Proclamations issued nearly two decades later by Governors Robert B. Mitchell and William A. Pile declared certain tribes outlaws and authorized New Mexico residents to commit violence against them.

“I started looking at the story surrounding the proclamations – was there any impact, did it really fuel the hate?” said Rangel, whose roots include Apache and Navajo.

Through her research, she found several scalping bounties, with some counties even paying for newspaper ads in states beyond New Mexico to solicit people for the efforts. New Mexico became a US state in January 1912.

Rangel shared his findings with tribal and state officials. She is among those pushing for this part of New Mexico history to be included in school curricula.

“I would like to see more communication with the tribes and for them to be the source of the story that is learned,” she said.

New Mexico is home to nearly two dozen tribal nations and pueblos, with Native Americans making up more than 12% of the population.

Nohemi M. Moore