Tuesday, October 02, 2012
What’s ahead for Mt. Taylor?
The deep blue sweep of 11,301-foot Mt. Taylor looming west of Albuquerque is the origin of the only permanent water source in west-central New Mexico. Its high-elevation snows feed springs and the San Jose River. For the last four years, it has also been the source of a bitter a quarrel between two longstanding traditions — Indian tribes that have lived in and used the area for centuries and heirs to land grants handed down by the king of Spain in the 1700s. The issue is the designation of 434,000 acres — 700 square miles — as what is called a “traditional cultural property,” or TCP, under state law. And it is now in the hands of the New Mexico Supreme Court. The TCP designation, made in 2009, puts land within the boundary on the State Register of Cultural Properties because of its significance to the broad patterns of history, its association with the lives of significant persons in the past and its status as a property that has or will yield important information in history or prehistory. It’s not unlike a church or an old house or a hotel or railroad station or bridge or one of hundreds of items, typically in the built environment, that carry those brass plaques stating the place is historically significant. But the law also permits designation of sites large and small as carrying another kind of significance. And, in this case, the nomination of the property was initiated by a coalition of five Indian tribes — the pueblos of Acoma, Laguna and Zuni, the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation — and the site is very large. Lee Maestas, president of the board of trustees of the Cebolleta grant, notes that the grant’s original 200,000 acres was reduced to its current 34,000 acres through dubious partitions in the early part of the 20th century — and 19,000 of that, he says, “will be controlled by other parties” if the TCP is allowed to go forward. “It’s a modern-day land grab,” he said in an interview at Seboyeta, a non-incorporated village within the land grant area on the east side of Mt. Taylor. About 150 families live in the villages of Bibo (or Cebolletita); Seboyeta, the post office’s spelling of Cebolleta; and Moquino. Although the land grant retains ownership of the land with a TCP, Maestas said he fears it means loss of control...more