The Bibos Appendix IX

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.


[From Leslie A. White, The Acoma Indians: Forty-Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology 1929-30 (Washington, D. C.: United States Printing Office, 1932), pp. 23-125.

Acoma Today

Acoma's early reputation for vigorous unfriendliness to the whites has been maintained to the present day. Of course, there has been no violence for many years, but Government officials and employees, representatives of religious organizations, and tourists well know the difficulties which confront a white man or woman at Acoma. The Acoma people are suspicious, distrustful and unfriendly. In addition to their constant fears that they may have their land taken from them, or that they may be taxed by the government, they are ever on guard to prevent any information concerning their ceremonies from becoming known lest they be supressed (or ridiculed) by the whites [p. 28]....

Property is owned by both men and women. Some own houses and some women own herds of sheep. Property is divided among the children at death. Theoretically, all land is community owned, but each farm is said to "belong" to some particular family. This means that they are using it and that they have the right to use it, but should they neglect the land and allow it to be idle some one else may ask the Cacique to allot the land to him. And the Cacique has the authority to do this.... The grazing land is communal; the flocks of various families wander over the range almost at random [p. 34]....

Regarding marriage with non-Acoma persons I received the impression quite decidedly that marriage outside the pueblo is not to be encouraged, even with other pueblos, and marriage with whites or Mexicans is disapproved of [p. 38].


Political control of the Pueblo is exercised by officers and societies. The officers may be divided into two groups, viz., the Cacique-war chief group and the governor with his aides. The latter is of post Spanish origin and is simply a secular arm of the Cacique and the war priests [p. 40].

The Governor

This group of officers is of post-Spanish origin. They serve a double function now, and I presume the -need for such services was responsible for their origin. First, they represent the Pueblo in business, political, or religious transactions with the whites and the Mexicans. Secondly, they act as a screen which quite effectively conceals the existence of the Cacique, the War chiefs and the medicine men - the real powers of the village....

The following items give some idea of the kind of extra-pueblo business that falls to the governor There is an Indian Agency at Albuquerque which "supervises" Acoma. They have a "farmer" living at Acomita. He supervises irrigation, livestock, road building, upkeep of the school house...

This indicates the nature and range of the governor's business. His is really a difficult position. He has to obey the priests and work with the whites. He is frequently caught between the Cacique at old Acoma on one side and the superintendent at Albuquerque and the Government farmer in Acomita on the other.

The governor is appointed yearly at the "Christmas Elections" by the Cacique. He wears a badge bearing the words "Governor of Acoma" and he has a cane which was given to the Pueblo by President Lincoln.... [pp. 53-55].

Marriage and Divorce

Monogamy is the rule at Acoma. The Catholic faith being professed, divorce is theoretically impossible. Many couples are married in the old mission church at Acoma by the Priest (Franciscan). These marriages usually take place on September 2, at the Feast of St. Stephen, Acoma's patron Saint. But frequently a man and woman live together as man and wife and without any formal ceremony....

There are many illegitimate children. Many girls become mothers before they marry (or live with a man); sometimes they have two children before marriage. Sometimes, indeed, they never marry but rear large families. Neither illegitimacy nor extraconjugal sexual relationships are considered sins or even immoral.... [pp. 135-136].

Next Appendix X