American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
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All Indian Pueblo Council

The All Indian Pueblo Council (AIPC) is a representative, pantribal body composed of the governors of the nineteen New Mexico pueblos. As a consortium, the AIPC is empowered by and through each of the pueblo governors and tribal councils to act on behalf of all the member pueblos on matters that affect numerous member tribes, such as legal, economic, political, social, and environmental issues. The AIPC does not have governmental authority over the pueblos. Rather, each pueblo governs and usually advocates for itself in most matters, with the AIPC often coordinating pueblo efforts on issues concerning land rights, water rights, education, and religious and cultural issues.

Many Pueblo people assert that the roots of the AIPC extend back to the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, when leaders of many Pueblo groups met to organize resistance to the Spanish occupation, taxation, and religious repression. Although there is ample evidence from Pueblo leaders that a pantribal council met periodically throughout their history, the modern AIPC was formed in 1922 when numerous Pueblo leaders, along with Indian activist John Collier, called a meeting to formulate a strategy to deal with the threat posed by a bill sponsored by New Mexico senator Holm Bursum to Pueblo land and water rights, and, by extension, to their entire way of life. Successful in their efforts against the Bursum Bill, the group established a precedent for cooperative action to influence government policy that would continue to guide the AIPC.

Much of its early activity during the 1920s and 1930s was concerned with land rights, in particular learning how to deal with the federal government through Collier's tutelage (Collier served as Commissioner of Indian Affairs during the Roosevelt administration). Pueblo leaders learned how to organize and affect federal and state decisions that impacted both their tribal sovereignty and their land and water rights in the legislative, bureaucratic, and judicial realms. The AIPC was successful in advocating for the establishment of the Pueblo Lands Board to settle the countless claims arising from the presence of non-Indian squatters on lands promised to the Pueblos through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo's guarantees of the Spanish land grants.

However, local concerns were never far from the minds of the Pueblo leaders who actually made up the council. After World War II, AIPC members concentrated on improving the day-to-day existence of the Pueblo peoples. Much of this work had to do with spurring the Office of Indian Affairs both to take action on long-term issues and to deal effectively with ad hoc emergencies. Martin Vigil, the AIPC chairman for much of the postwar period, thought that the AIPC should be a forum for dealing with issues concerning the relationship between the Pueblos and the state and federal governments, particularly with regard to land and water rights.

In contrast with the American Indian Movement and other Red Power groups of the 1960s and 1970s, the AIPC kept its focus on issues of local importance, although many of these issues, such as water rights, had national implications. Education, which had always been important to the AIPC, also took on a new emphasis during these years. In its modern guise, the AIPC has concentrated more on issues of preserving Pueblo cultures through the operation of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the Institute for Pueblo Indian Studies in Albuquerque, and on the operation of education and alcohol/addiction programs. However, it has served and continues to serve a vital role in protecting and even expanding the Pueblos' land base and water rights over much of the twentieth century. Its example shows that successful, coordinated action can be taken to protect tribal self-determination over land and water resources.

Steven L. Danver


Further Reading
DuMars, Charles T., et al. 1984. Pueblo Indian Water Rights: Struggle for a Precious Resource. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.; Philp, Kenneth R. 1981. John Collier's Crusade for Indian Reform, 1920–1954. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.; Sando, Joe S. 1992. Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo History. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers.; Sando, Joe S. 1998. Pueblo Profiles: Cultural Identity Through Centuries of Change. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers.
 

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