Jemez Pueblo & Valles Caldera

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As the Rock Your Mocs event and Indigenous Peoples Tour of UNM presented two different ways of publicizing Native American rights and histories in New Mexico, the people of Jemez Pueblo continued a legal struggle to regain rights to the Valles Caldera nature preserve. On the official website of Jemez Pueblo, a section at the bottom requests donations to the Valles Caldera Recovery Project. Until 2000 the land was privately owned. That year, the federal government purchased the area with the intention of placing it under the purview of the National Forest Service.

According to the Jemez people, however, Valles Caldera has always been a sacred site for their tribe. As the governor of the Pueblo stated in a 2014 interview, “the Valles Caldera is our church. It’s our Holy Land. This place is as important for us as the Vatican is for Catholics.”3 After a decade-long legal battle, a federal judge ruled against the Jemez claim in 2013. But at the end of 2014, as the federal trust administered to the area neared its expiration date, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision.

At present, the Jemez Pueblo continues the struggle to regain ownership of their sacred space. Unlike the 1970s case when Taos Pueblo reclaimed Blue Lake, however, the Jemez people have not been able to create the same type of widespread public support for their position.

The actions of the Jemez Pueblo, Rock Your Mocs organizers, and Indigenous Peoples Resistance Tour all emphasize the continued resilience of New Mexico’s Native peoples, as well as the stark reality that they still struggle to maintain their cultural identities and civil rights within the United States.

Back to: The History of New Mexico > Chapter 16: Into the 21st Century