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Counter Narrative: A Narrative of Stewardship

Tribal Law Journal Staff attended “Counter Narrative: Manifest Larceny”, a lecture presented by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center on March 27, 2019. The lecture was part of a larger series that provides a platform for viewpoints that differ from mainstream media and history. Speakers at the event were Helen Padilla, Director of the American Indian Law Center, Carleton R. Bowekaty, Lt. Governor of the Pueblo of Zuni, and James R. Mountain, former Governor of the Pueblo of San Ildefonso. 

As a lecture, “Manifest Larceny” was a narrative of how the people of the nineteen Pueblos of New Mexico have had to adapt their diplomatic relations with the various entities and governments that have come into contact over the years. Historically, Pueblos were “granted” lands (upon which Pueblo people had lived on before the arrival of the Spanish), by the Spanish crown. Later, they had to adapt to the governments of Mexico and the United States. It was clear from the lecture that the Pueblos saw this as vital to maintain their way of life, language, and stewardship of the land and water. 

Governor Mountain talked about the chromium plume affecting the population and land at San Ildefonso. Governor Mountain discussed how the Pueblo has deployed diplomacy, litigation, and building good working relationships with various governmental entities in order to remedy the toxic contamination brought on by the Los Alamos National Laboratory. A few tidbits on Pueblo water rights and the Aamodt settlement in particular were also presented. 

Lt. Governor Bowekaty talked about the importance of maintaining language and customs and the ways in which his Pueblo has maintained a delicate balance between giving up some access to ancestral lands in order to have access to others. 

In short, the lecture was a concise juxtaposition of the John O’Sullivan’s declaration of “manifest destiny” against the historical narrative of the Pueblos. What resulted in manifest larceny from the Pueblos has resulted in a more resilient and adaptable native peoples. The importance of that counter narrative to be shared and heard cannot be emphasized enough. 

The Counter Narrative lecture series continues at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. 


Kaythee Hlaing, Multimedia Editor, Tribal Law Journal

By Tribal Law Journal Blog

The Tribal Law Journal was established in fall 1998 for the purpose of promoting indigenous self-determination by facilitating discussion of the internal law of the world’s indigenous nations. The internal law of indigenous nations encompasses traditional law, western law adopted by indigenous nations, and a blend of western and indigenous law. Underscoring this purpose is the recognition that traditional law is a source of law.

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