The Impact of the Frontier On a Jewish Family: The Bibos
by Floyd S. Fierman
Originally published in print by the Southwest Jewish Archives, Fall 1988.
SELECTIONS FROM THE RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS. LETTERS RECEIVED, SPECIAL CASE No. 132. BIBO LEASE OF ACOMA LAND. GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION, WASHINGTON, 1954
U. S. Indian Service, Santa Fé, June 4, 1884.
TO THE COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS:
I have been informed that Solomon Bibo, U. S. Ind Trader, at Acoma -- availing himself of the influence that by his sagacity he has acquired in that Pueblo -- has induced the Governor, thereof, (it is said at least) to enter into and sign for him (Bibo) a lease of all the Acoma grant with all its grazing land, water, etc. as you will readily find by perusal of enclosed copy of lease (which please return, as I understand you have a copy of it) to which the said Bibo pretends to have obtained the common consent of said Pueblo. Until convinced of the contrary I hold that the will of the puelbo in common is not expressed in the said pretended lease ... I do not consider appropos to their welfare as it opens a broad field to speculation who come among them and seeing their blindness make them a prey to their sagacity.
The Pueblo of Acoma -- like other Pueblos --- depends on the raising of animals -- cattle, sheep, -- for which purpose their lands are fit, for their living ...
Therefore, with a view to stop a calamity, or rather prevent it timely so immenent [sic] on this Pueblo, caused by this prejudiced lease, I ask very respectfully, to be advised on this matter, as to the manner in which I should proceed.
I am respectfully your obedient servant.
U.S. Ind. Agt.
OFFICE OF INDIAN AFFAIRS
No. 10893 June 9, 1881
An Affadavit is enclosed which reads:
July 1884 McCartys, [sic]New Mexico
I, Martin Valle, Governor of the Pueblo ... that on signing the lease of which this is a faithful copy - I did it under the understanding that it was only for three years and not for thirty years: that it was so made known to me....
[McCarty's Station is a place on the A. and P. R.R. and within the Acoma line.]
[Letter of Pedro Sanchez to H. Price, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington.]
U. S. Indian Service, July 14, 1884
... I called a meeting at McCarty's Station which meeting was composed of over 60 Acoma Indians more or less.... The governor of Acoma and some of the principals thereof were present and I proceed to explain to them - by means of the interpreter the object of my going there.... After this I asked them in a clear and loud voice: "Have you or any of you agreed to that agreement": They answered all in one voice except the governor, "We have not agreed to any such thing ... we would rather die than agree to it."
After this noise was over I addressed myself to the Governor and asked him: What do you know about this license? And he answered what is set forth in the affidavit enclosed: "When Bibo spoke to [me] about that portion of land that we have near the 'Gallo' spring and told me he wanted that tract to pasture the cattle that would be left him after delivering the herd that some of the Acoma Indians had given him on shares and under that understanding did I sign the paper."
U.S. Indian Agent
[The case was brought to the attention of the Secretary of the Interior who referred it to the Department of Justice, who referred it to the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico, July 31, 1884.]
* * *
[Letter written from Laguna, Valencia Co., New Mexico from Walter G. Marmon, U.S. deputy surveyor, July 31, 1884]
... the Indians are all opposed to the lease except the governor and his clique ... whatever is done should be done quickly. It is the most infernal, damnable, highhanded outrage that was ever attempted.
[Letter dated May 10, 1884 to H. M. Teller, Secretary of the Interior, Washington]
(The Acoma Lease)
The facts concerning the making of the lease by which the Indians of the Acoma Pueblo entirely surrendered the use of their land to one Solomon Bibo for a mere nothing, have already been reported to the department. The lease is clearly a fraud. Bibo assigned it as soon as it was made to parties in Albuquerque. The assignees had not at the time of my visit tried to take possession.
Very respectfully, your obdt. servt.
U.S. Indian Inspector
* * *
[Letter from Pedro Sanchez from Santa Fé, November 26, 1884]
... In connection therewith I desire to explain that the cattle company spoken in Mr. Marmon's letter is none other than that of Saint and Cleland the assignees of the lease executed by the Acoma Indians to one Solomon Bibo.... These frequent quarrels between the Acoma and Laguna Indians are evidently the direct results of the lease. Because prior to its existence these people were peaceful neighbors.... It appears to me that the Acomas are the agressors of the reason, that they are constantly under the influence of Saint and Cleland or their paid agent Solomon Bibo, either of whom I believe would not hesitate to incite the Indians to mischief if he be the gainer thereby.
* * *
[The Legal answer after the case had been adjudicated]
But suit must be brought directly by their authority [the Indians] and not as claimed by the authority of the general government, without regard to their wishes in the matter, by virtue of the relations existing between the government and Pueblo tribes.
JOSEPH BELL, U.S. Attorney
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