Over five centuries of foreign rule—by Spain, Mexico, and the United States—Native American pueblos have confronted attacks on their sovereignty and encroachments on their land and water rights. How five New Mexico and Texas pueblos did this, in some cases multiple times, forms the history of cultural resilience and tenacity chronicled in Pueblo Sovereignty by two of New Mexico’s most distinguished legal historians, Malcolm Ebright and Rick Hendricks.
Extending their award-winning work Four Square Leagues, Ebright and Hendricks focus here on four New Mexico Pueblo Indian communities—Pojoaque, Nambe, Tesuque, and Isleta—and one now in Texas, Ysleta del Sur. The authors trace the complex tangle of conflicting jurisdictions and laws these pueblos faced when defending their extremely limited land and water resources. The communities often met such challenges in court and, sometimes, as in the case of Tesuque Pueblo in 1922, took matters into their own hands. Ebright and Hendricks describe how—at times aided by appointed Spanish officials, private lawyers, priests, and Indian agents—each pueblo resisted various non-Indian, institutional, and legal pressures; and how each suffered defeat in the Court of Private Land Claims and the Pueblo Lands Board, only to assert its sovereignty again and again.
Although some of these defenses led to stunning victories, all five pueblos experienced serious population declines. Some were even temporarily abandoned. That all have subsequently seen a return to their traditions and ceremonies, and ultimately have survived and thrived, is a testimony to their resilience. Their stories, documented here in extraordinary detail, are critical to a complete understanding of the history of the Pueblos and of the American Southwest.
“Pueblo Sovereignty joins and complements Malcolm Ebright and Rick Hendricks’s distinguished body of work on land and water in the Southwest, including their prize-winning Four Square Leagues. Their deep experience in the field; grasp of historical, legal, and related sources; and ability to trace the evolution of themes through the Spanish colonial, Mexican, and U.S. periods set this study of five Pueblo communities apart. Here is yet another outstanding collaboration.”—John L. Kessell, author of Pueblos, Spaniards, and the Kingdom of New Mexico
“In this exceptionally well researched book, the authors describe in detail how five pueblos have maintained their sovereignty since the late 1500s. Unlike most books on Pueblo history, this one recounts the struggle up to the present day, making Pueblo Sovereignty a requirement for any library on Indian rights.”—Sandra K. Mathews, coauthor of A History of New Mexico since Statehood
“Pueblo Sovereignty is an important book for scholars of Native history, especially those working on the Southwest. It is exhaustively researched and balanced in its analysis and interpretation of the material. It would be helpful to see it situated more squarely in the broader scholarship on settler colonialism and Native dispossession, but this aside, it provides an important foundation on which further research on Native land and water issues in the Southwest can be built.”—H-Net
“Pueblo Sovereignty is a follow-up to Ebright’s and Hendricks’s magnificent Four Square Leagues, a detailed and comprehensive history of Pueblo land and water rights…Together with Four Square Leagues, Pueblo Sovereignty provides an extensive history of Pueblo Indian rights and will likely be a standard reference as historians continue to tell the rich story of the Pueblos and their independence.”— Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“…this important study is essential reading for scholars and students of Pueblo history and provides a model for future studies of Indigenous sovereignty, colonialism, and resurgence, studies which, as Ebright and Hendricks have shown, must be tied to land and water.”—New Mexico Historical Review