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Olberg informed Sells of the importance of survey maps in documenting the extent of Pima land then under cultivation and having priority rights to water. With Sells’ support, Olberg proposed putting four men in the field conducting “adjudication surveys,” two gathering data on the reservation and two above it. He then assigned John S. Layne to examine land records in Pinal, Pima and Graham counties regarding “water appropriations that might have some bearing” on adjudication hearings. Assistant engineer F. M. Schanck stressed the propriety of a survey to determine the extent and quantity of water used by the Indians.582 Until this information was gathered, Olberg was
unable to “guess within a couple thousand acres” how much Pima land was under irrigation.583 Olberg did not believe it proper to take water from upstream users—after they had put it to beneficial use with the blessing and approval of the United States Government— and restore it to the Pima. In an effort to mitigate this conflict, Olberg recommended constructing two diversion dams on the river, believing they would “be of material and immediate benefit” to the Pima and “absolutely essential” to the success of irrigation on the reservation.584 When the Corps of Engineers declared feasible the proposed San Carlos Project in 1914, it also recommended the construction of a diversion dam above Florence. This would better utilize floodwaters that could then be transported through a thirty-one-mile long canal “to improve irrigation conditions on the Pima Reservation.” If the Florence diversion dam were not politically possible, then at a minimum a diversion dam was to be built at the head of the Little Gila River to capture the return flow from upstream users near Florence to be beneficially used by Pima farmers on the east end of the reservation.585 First, however, the Corps recommended adjudication of water rights.
By spring, some members of Congress were convinced of the propriety of a reclamation project on the Gila River and remained open to the idea of constructing a diversion dam if it would benefit Pima farmers.586 Hayden and Senator Henry F. Ashurst 583 “Olberg to Sells, through Wendell Reed,” dated Sacaton, Ariz., February 19, 1914. “John S. Layne to C.R. Olberg,” dated Solomonsville, Ariz., May 20, 1914. “Olberg to Reed,” dated Sacaton, Ariz., February 20, 1914. All in Olberg Letterbox, From Central Office to Olberg, in SCIP files. “Charles H. Southworth to N.W. Irsfeld,” dated June 22, 1915, in C.H. Southworth Letterbox, Historical Correspondence, 1914-1916, in SCIP files.
584 Indians of the United States: Hearings Before the Committee on Indian Affairs, p. 1006. Charles R. Olberg, Report on Water Rights of Gila River and Feasibility of San Carlos Project, (United States Indian Irrigation Service, 1915), in SCIP files.
585 San Carlos Irrigation Project, Arizona: Report to the Secretary of War of a Board of Engineer Officers, United States Army, under Indian Appropriation Act of August 24, 1912, on San Carlos Irrigation Project, Arizona, pp. 54, 65.
586 Arizona Democratic Senator Henry F. Ashurst told the Arizona Blade-Tribune that many Congressional delegates were opposed to any appropriation for “white settlers in Arizona” but because of the interest of the Indian Service, Indian Rights Association and other 249 (D-AZ), determined to use this sentiment to the advantage of all Pinal County farmers, sought a joint-use system that would enable the Pima and their non-Indian neighbors to put their water to beneficial use and thereby protect it under state prior appropriation laws. Distributing the benefits of reclamation through a joint use project was socially and politically more palatable than reallocating water, leading Hayden to support a more conservative and expedient course.587 In June, Hayden and Ashurst co-introduced legislation calling for construction of San Carlos dam and a joint-use irrigation project. Facing opposition from Western Congressmen who believed Arizona already had its share of federal reclamation (i.e. the Salt River project), Hayden and Ashurst initiated a public relations campaign designed to shape opinion for the San Carlos project. “Our best, and in fact our only avenue of approach is by reason of the fact that the Pima Indians will be benefited,” Hayden noted.588 The Pima, meanwhile, initiated their own public relations blitz, with the Pima First Presbyterian Church in Sacaton writing members of Congress seeking support for a reclamation project on the Gila.589 John Truesdell, assistant U.S. Attorney representing “kind red societies,” the Florence-Casa Grande Valley would ultimately “obtain the money necessary” for the Florence-Casa Grande Project. See “Diversion Dam Sure Says Ashurst,” Arizona Blade-Tribune, dated May 8, 1915, p. 1.
587 The House Committee on Indian Affairs was particularly interested in the reimbursement of any federal outlay of money. The general law of funding irrigation projects was to make them reimbursable through the sale of lands. While the Pima had no money to their credit, Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs Edgar Merritt informed the Committee, they did have “quite a large reservation.” Whether or not it could be sold was a “question to be determined later.” While he did not advocate the sale of any land, Merritt did believe the Pima would “ultimately have funds” to reimburse the government. Nonetheless, the Committee refused to exempt the reservation from sale, believing the Pima had more land than necessary. Merritt agreed surplus lands would remain after allotment and could be sold to reimburse the government—if Congress so chose. Diversion Dam on the Gila River At a Site Above Florence, Arizona, Excerpts to be used by the Committee on Indian Affairs, 64th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington, DC: GPO, 1917), pp. 14-16.
588 Quoted in August, 1992, p. 402. Hayden also faced opposition from Upper Valley water users (Safford, Duncan and Virden valleys) who were fearful they would be “compelled to abandon their homes” to benefit the Florence-Casa Grande and reservation farmers. See “Upper Gila Valley Alarmed over San Carlos Project,” in Arizona Blade-Tribune, dated April 4, 1914, p. 1.
589 “An Appeal of the Pimas,” n. d. Casa Grande, Ariz., The Casa Grande Bulletin Print.
250 the Pima, also broadcast Pima water rights in speeches and articles to local communities, pushing for an “early adjustment” of Gila River water rights by court decree.590 Ashurst, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, immediately requested that Interior Secretary Franklin Lane prepare a position paper outlining the views of the Indian Service regarding a smaller joint-use diversion dam above Florence, a concept viewed as more feasible after a series of floods in the winter of 1914-1915. “Certain it is,” Assistant Engineer Nathan W. Irsfeld wrote Southworth from Sacaton in February, “more acres of (reservation) land went downstream with the last flood.” The torrent left several canals on the reservation in “very bad condition,” with the wing dam at the head of the Little Gila River completely destroyed. While upstream farmers might be able to build a permanent diversion dam above Florence to protect them from flooding and better utilize the water, Lane told Ashurst, the government would have to oppose them “in order to protect the water right now claimed by the Indians.” Lane consented to the proposed project but only if it would “give the Indians an advantage of location that they have not heretofore enjoyed.”591 Reed proceeded cautiously, seeking to protect Pima water through the politically conservative “beneficial use” approach. Writing to Sells, Reed stressed the desirability of increasing Indian irrigation as a means of self-support and for “the preservation of undisputed legal rights to the water.” Showing his deference for prior appropriation, Reed informed Sells that such use of the water was more in accordance with the “law in arid 590 “Farmers and Indians are Unit (sic) on San Carlos Matter,” Arizona Blade-Tribune, dated March 28, 1914, p. 1.
591 “Letter of N.W. Irsfeld to C.H. Southworth, Pima, Arizona,” dated Sacaton, Ariz., February 11, 1915, in Charles Southworth Letterbox, Historical Correspondence 1914-1916, in SCIP files. Annual Report of the Irrigation Service, fiscal year 1915, pp. 42, 45 and 46. “Letter of Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, to the Honorable Senator Henry Ashurst,” dated Department of the Interior, Washington, DC, January 28, 1915, in Diversion Dam on the Gila River At a Site Above Florence, Arizona, Excerpts, p. 5.
“Extracts from the Hearings Before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Thursday, January 28, 1915,” ibid, pp. 6, 8.
251 states” and “cooperation with state officials is encouraged by acting in harmony with this plan.”592 Already in February 1914, Reed had dispatched a letter to Olberg stressing the importance of demonstrating actual number of acres cultivated by the Indians. “I find that Congressmen simply go up in the air when they question [me] and find that a considerable amount [of money] has been expended in irrigation projects and [I am] unable to show any tangible beneficial results.” Olberg responded by explaining again that the “amount of land irrigated [by the Pima] changes from year to year,” depending on water availability. While currently unable to quantify the acreage under irrigation, Olberg promised Reed when the present surveys were completed he could tell the chief engineer the quantity to within “a fraction of an acre.”593 While the Corps of Engineers recommended adjudication of Gila River water rights as a precursor to any irrigation project, litigation made Hayden and Florence-Casa Grande area farmers uneasy, especially if Congress were to authorize federal action.
Desiring to restore water to the Pima and provide for his voting constituents, Hayden encouraged Pinal County water leaders to settle any water adjudication matter in a friendly manner rather than “quarrel over the meager supply.” Water then going to waste in times of flood made little sense when it could be harnessed to benefit all farmers in the Gila River Valley.594 In anticipation of adjudication proceedings, Sells approved Olberg’s request to survey the reservation and precisely determine the extent of Pima agriculture. Schanck
suggested Olberg not only survey the reservation but also include the upstream lands so as to “limit and define the quantity of water” being used above the reservation.595 Merritt authorized $3,000 to install and maintain gauging stations on the Gila to chart the flow of water and effects of upstream diversions. At Olberg’s request, six of these stations were placed on the Gila River, one on the Santa Cruz River and one on the San Pedro River. In an attempt to keep water hearings out of federal court, Pinal County water users initiated a friendly complaint at the superior court in Florence on December 9, 1913. Olberg immediately begged Reed to do all he could to “stave off the adjudication a few months longer [so] we will be in a position to present the claims of the Indians.”596 The Justice Department, believing sufficient efforts to protect Pima water rights were taken, did not intervene.
Reed delayed adjudication hearings in the Lobb v. Avenente complaint until June 10, 1914, when Cochise County Judge A. C. Lockwood commenced hearings on the complaint that sidestepped Pima water rights and focused almost solely on the rights of water users in Pinal County. As non-citizen wards of the government, the Pima were neither present in the Florence courthouse nor were their interests represented. Hayden 595 The Florence newspaper noted in many instances off-reservation landowners were “reluctant to give accurate data” to the Indian Service, which was collecting the information. The Arizona Blade-Tribune urged its readers to cooperate fully since the truth would eventually come out. “Water Rights Data Coming Slowly,” Arizona Blade-Tribune, June 27, 1914, p. 1.
596 “Schanck to Olberg,” dated Los Angeles, Calif., April 28, 1914; “Merritt to the Director of the Geological Survey,” dated Washington, DC, March 7, 1914; and “Olberg to Reed,” dated Sacaton, Ariz., February 9, 1914, all in Olberg Letterbox, Historical Research, 1913-1914. The Justice Department, believing it was progressing in its protection of Pima water rights, did not intervene on behalf of the Pima. Attorney General James Clark McReynolds errantly believed the Lobb v. Avenente case would take into consideration Pima water rights, which it did not. Annual Report of the Attorney General 1914 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1915), pp. 38The Arizona Blade-Tribune stated on May 30, 1914, “While it is known that the Indian Department has been looking into the matter of water rights in the valley on behalf of the Indians there is nothing to indicate the department will ask to have the case transferred to the federal court.” 253 convinced Lockwood to limit the proceedings to Pinal County, believing that keeping Upper Valley users in Gila County out of court would best serve all parties.597 Meanwhile, Reed agreed with Olberg’s request to survey all the middle Gila River Valley in order to quantify the current and formerly irrigated lands of the Pima and Maricopa as well as their non-Indian neighbors both above and below the reservation.