«Item type text; Electronic Dissertation Authors DeJong, David Henry Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held by the author. ...»
In the following chapter, I consider the impacts of the 1902 National Reclamation Act. Political leaders and farmers from both the Gila River and Casa Grande valleys banked on the Pima water crisis to convince Congress to open a large area of public lands above the reservation. Instead, political interests and land speculators influenced changes to the act, resulting in Salt River Valley residents receiving the first reclamation project in 1903. A political battle in central Arizona over control of Indian land and resources pitted the Pima against powerful economic and speculative forces in the Salt River Valley. At the center of these activities was the application of land severalty to the reservation. While tribes in Arizona were among the last to face severalty, allotment took on new meaning after the passage of the Reclamation Act, targeting water as much as the land. While non-Indians developed large-scale irrigation projects that threatened to draw upon Indian water resources, the Pima quickly found themselves a pawn in the economic
“A SCHEME TO ROB THEM OF THEIR LAND?” ALLOTMENT OF THE PIMA RESERVATION, 1902-1921 The passage of the National Reclamation Act of 1902 set off a showdown over control of Indian land and resources in central Arizona. In a microcosm, powerful economic and speculative forces in the Salt River Valley were pitted against the survival of local Indian tribes. At the center of these activities was the division of Indian land in severalty. While tribes in Arizona were among the last to face land severalty, allotment took on a new focus in the territory, one directed at water as much as land.
Allotment in central Arizona did not commence until Roosevelt Dam neared completion. But rather than adhering to the gradualist severalty policy envisioned by the policy’s framers in the 1880s, government officials and speculators now viewed that policy as undermining the economic growth of the West and the assimilation of the Indians. Land ownership was no longer a defining point in the “civilization” of the Indian; it was now a pawn in the economic integration of Indian resources and labor.
As Congress debated the Reclamation Act, it assumed the first federal reclamation project would be for the relief of the Pima. Yet, no sooner had the bill become law than political maneuvering in the Salt River Valley and Washington, D.C., persuaded Reclamation officials to support the Salt River project.474 Popular writer Charles Lummis could not overlook this irony. “Everyone remembers, of course, that the very forefront of
National Reclamation was the San Carlos Reservoir. It was urged and urged with all the eloquence of the irrigation crusade, and with the added plea of humanity. It was not only to be a great exemplar of the noble National Irrigation policy of reclaiming arid public lands in order that home-seekers might find homes,” Lummis wrote in 1903, “it was also to succor something like 7000 Pima Indians … who are starving because deprived of their water by white settlers.” If it had not been for the Pima, Lummis added, “it is not too much to say that the whole National Irrigation movement would have been handicapped by several years.”475 After 1902 tribal sovereignty was under attack from all levels of government.
Congress enacted numerous bills restricting tribal authority and the U.S. Supreme Court followed suit. In 1903, the court ruled in Lonewolf vs. Hitchcock that Congress had absolute authority to unilaterally change the terms of agreements and treaties made with tribal nations, opening the door for further erosion of tribal rights and authority. Locally, speculators, railroad corporations, timber and mineral interests, and agriculturalists clamored for control of Indian land, lobbying for changes in the General Allotment Act to open up additional Indian land. In a classic Darwinian sense, it was a time for Indians to fend for themselves. If the Indians could not adjust to the evolving policy of economic integration, they “would remain on the fringes of American society—behind and below their enterprising new neighbors—”even if they adjusted as did the Pima.476 Even the Arizona Territorial Legislature memorialized Congress seeking federal support to allot in severalty the lands of tribal nations within the territory. In a supposedly
altruistic gesture, territorial officials pledged their support that Indians should “be furnished with farming implements and an inexhaustible supply of water for irrigation of their lands.”477 Within two years, a plan was afoot to restore water to the Pima Reservation and divide its land in severalty. To pay for this scheme, the Indians were to give up 180,000 acres of land. Owing to the influence of irrigation engineer William H.
Code, the Indian Service believed the water supply for the reservation—a precursor to allotment—would come not from the Gila River but from groundwater drawn to the surface by electric pumps.478 Dispatched to the Pima Agency as Indian Inspector in 1902, Code soon became Chief Irrigation Engineer for the Indian Service. A former irrigation engineer employed by Dr. A. J. Chandler and vice-president of Chandler’s Mesa Bank, Code had connections to Frederick Newell and Interior Secretary Richard Ballinger, who happened to be a good friend of President Theodore Roosevelt. Code served as “the engineer member” of the Salt River Valley Water User’s Association (SRVWUA), which met weekly to consider all possible means for securing water for the Salt River Valley. Code was adamant that groundwater was the only means of restoring water to the Pima and it was at his behest the Indian Service no longer recommended the construction of a dam at San Carlos, which Code saw as “wasteful and unsuitable.”479 477 Memorial of the 19th Territorial Legislature sent to the United States Congress. Reprinted in the Florence Tribune, December 7, 1901.
478 Indian Inspector and engineer Colonel Walter Graves first proposed development of the underground waters of the Gila River in the summer of 1900, not because it was the only means to secure water but, rather, due to his belief that Congress would not construct a dam and storage reservoir and commit itself to a “policy of Government patronage hitherto eschewed.” See Irrigation for the Pima Indians, Senate Document 88, 56th Congress, 2nd session (Washington, DC: GPO, 1901), pp. 2, 4-5.
479 Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1905 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1905), p. 15. Annual Report of the Reclamation Service, 1905 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1905), pp. 50-52.
207 Working with Louis Hill and Frederick Newell of the Reclamation Service, Code proposed wells in place of water stored in the proposed San Carlos reservoir. Using their influence, the three men laid out a scheme that was deleterious to the Pima. Code met with Arthur Davis of the U.S. Geological Survey immediately after the passage of the Reclamation Act to see if a way could be found to secure water to benefit the Pima. Code badgered Davis until he finally offered a solution: water could be had at the cost of 180,000 acres of land. If Davis would recommend the cession, Code promised to see to it that it was approved.480 It was at this time, Presbyterian Missionary Charles H. Cook opined, that the Reclamation Service went into the hands of big speculators.481 Interior Secretary Ethan Allen Hitchcock had already gone on record supporting the San Carlos site, although with Code no longer encouraging construction at San Carlos, support for the first federal reclamation project in Arizona quietly transferred to the Tonto site.482 With the passage of the Indian Appropriation Act of 1903, Congress provided $150,000 for general irrigation works on Indian lands. These funds were administered under the authority and at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior. Using this authority, the drilling of wells on the reservation began. The master plan was to construct ten pump stations “each furnishing sufficient water for the irrigation of about 1,000 acres of land.” The cost of these wells was around $80,000, with $460,000 needed to construct 480 Hearings before the Committee on Expenditures in the Interior Department of the House of Representatives on House Resolution No. 103 to Investigate the Expenditures in the Interior Department, June 5, 1911, Part 16, (Washington, DC: GPO, 1911), p. 662.
481 Cook called the Salt River Valley speculators “grafters, who I am afraid have the Salt River Water User’s Association and Mr.
W.H. Code to aid them.” See Memorials in RE Investigations of Pima Indians, Arizona, United States Congress, House of Representatives, Congressional Committee Print, 62-1-11 H3841, p. 4.
482 See “An Irrigation Meeting,” The Arizona Republican, July 15, 1902. The chief reason Hitchcock favored the San Carlos site was that it alone would provide “sufficient relief” to the Pima. Report in the Matter of the Investigation of the Salt and Gila Rivers, pp.
312-314. Between thirty and forty prominent settlers and speculators in the Salt River Valley joined forces to pressure the powers that be to select the Roosevelt site. This list included, among others, A.J. Chandler, W.M. Dobson, Benjamin Fowler, Dwight B. Heard, J.T. Priest, William Christy, J.C. Adams, Frank Grummell, B.A. Fickus, S.S. Greene, J.H. Wolfe, Joseph Stewart, Joseph Kibbey, and W. J. Murphy. The Tonto site was selected in October 1903.
208 a power plant in the Salt River Valley, making a total appropriation of $540,000 necessary. Since these funds were reimbursable, the Pima would have to repay the costs after they had received fee simple title to their land.
Code recommended the approval of a plan to sink four or five wells at the Sacaton
from Commissioner William Jones in December of 1902 to install five smaller wells. The pumping plant (five wells combined together) was operational by the winter of 1904 and, by summer, provided 2,000 gallons a minute, enough to irrigate 250 acres of land (600 acres if the pumps ran 24 hours a day).483 The quality of water, Code assured the commissioner, was “much superior” to the water pumped in the Salt River Valley. In May, Superintendent John B. Alexander was authorized to spend $4,000 to increase the size of the existing plant and evaluate the prospects for sinking two more wells.
That same year, J.R. Meskimons, superintendent of irrigation for the reservation, proposed developing the seepage waters of the Gila River to put on a self-supporting
basis “about one-half of the Indians that depend upon the Gila River water.” These plans were forwarded to Code, who agreed there were 1,400 miner’s inches (35 cubic feet per second) of water at Gila Crossing but claimed the Pima were irresponsible farmers, irrigating just 1,035 acres of crops when they could have been irrigating more than 4,000.
“Until the present water supply is used by these Indians in a proper manner and made to irrigate every acre it can successfully provide for,” Code informed Francis Leupp, “I would not recommend spending large sums of money in this locality.”484 In the meantime, Alexander—having been requested by the U.S. District Attorney through Jones to provide information relative to Pima water rights—informed the commissioner there were 960 water users above the reservation. While he believed Pima water rights could be “prosecuted to a favorable ending,” Alexander informed Jones that non-Indian interests upstream were varied and the water was diverted by settlers as far as 200 miles above the Indian’s point of diversion. It “would be impossible,” Alexander argued, “for the court to enforce” any decree of rights.485 Leupp agreed that the courts were not the proper means to secure water for the Pima. In reality, he and his successor Robert Valentine subscribed to the legal theory that the Pima no longer had any rights to the waters of the Gila River since upstream farmers were making beneficial use of them. Government negligence in failing to protect Pima water would be alleviated not by restoring water but by confirming upstream users in
their junior rights to the water. The Justice Department allowed the matter to drop.486 Despite the 1908 Winters vs. United States Supreme Court ruling that recognized tribal rights to water, the Indian Service operated on the belief that Indians had to demonstrate beneficial use as did non-Indians, a proposition that was upheld by a federal court in 1916.487 Code acknowledged that he “had as much authority, and probably more, than anybody else in the field” over water matters. Despite being charged with providing the Pima with water, he “never regarded it as feasible to attempt to fight for water rights that had been taken away so many years before.” In his view it was impossible for the Pima to recover their “low water rights.” Groundwater was the only option.488 In the process, Code sought to redefine Pima water rights according to the beneficial use doctrine as set forth in local law, seriously undermining Pima sovereignty over their water resources.