Washington Congress has approved giving a New Mexico Indian tribe $23 million and about 4,600 acres to settle lawsuits over land the tribe claimed under a grant from the king of Spain more than 300 years ago.
The Santo Domingo Pueblo had argued it was the rightful owner of 52,000 acres of federal, state and private land near its reservation between Albuquerque and Santa Fe in northern New Mexico. The area includes shrines and other religious sites considered sacred by the 4,600-member tribe.
The deal, which does not require private landowners to sell or give their property to the tribe, also gives the tribe the option to use $3.7 million of the settlement money to buy 7,355 acres of National Forest Service land in the disputed area. That plot and the 4,577 acres of Bureau of Land Management land the tribe gets will be used mainly for religious purposes.
The Santo Domingo Pueblo's land claim stemmed from two transactions: A 1689 land grant from the king of Spain for the tribe's reservation and the tribe's 1748 purchase of a neighboring tract called the Diego Gallegos grant. Congress agreed to honor such land grants in 1858 in a law finalizing U.S. control over the Southwest.