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Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico

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Legislation to begin addressing a decades-old mineral rights claim by pueblo was passed by the House Nov. 28 and goes to the Senate. It directs the U.S. Department of Interior to estimate the value of more than 67,000 acres of privately owned subsurface rights, including mineral rights, within the boundaries of the pueblo. Most of the private land is owned by New Mexico and Arizona Land Co. The bill, which goes to the Senate, directs the department to acquire the subsurface rights from any non-tribal sellers in exchange for cash, mineral leasing or bidding credits or interests in other federal lands of similar value ? within three years passage. Subsurface mineral rights acquired would be put in trust for the pueblo. Under the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ceded part of the territory of New Mexico to the United States, the federal government agreed pueblos would keep their property rights. Although a law prohibited the transfer of American Indian land without tribal consent, U.S. land surveyors in 1876 and 1877 designated large amounts of tribal land as public domain. Despite pueblo claims, that land eventually passed to New Mexico and Arizona Land Co., which now owns 67,710 acres of mineral rights beneath Acoma land.