This year, 2022, marks the 110th anniversary of New Mexico‘s admission to the United States (37 Stat. 39 (1912). However, New Mexico’s history goes back much further than the 110 years of its statehood. The state is full of parks, preserves, monuments, towns, and buildings that document its history. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but I have always considered New Mexico as my home state. It is known as the Land of Enchantment and, to my mind, it is a beautiful spot with a fascinating past.
New Mexico is home to some of the oldest fossil remains in North America, one of the largest volcano eruptions in history, and is the birthplace of the atom bomb and modern nuclear physics, as well as being home to 19 Indian reservations, the oldest continually inhabited town in the world at Taos Pueblo, and the oldest state capitol in the United States in Santa Fe. I could also mention that it hosts one of the largest balloon festivals in the world, a tramway of historic dimensions and …, well I need to stop there. New Mexico’s history is long and complex and these are just a few of the highlights that spring to my mind when I rave about the state to my friends. To accompany this encomium, my colleague, Jennifer, has provided a list of books in the Law Library’s holdings containing state and colonial laws of New Mexico, some previous blog posts on the state, and historical material from the general collections.
The Valle Grande National Preserve was the site of one of the largest volcano eruptions in North American about one million years ago with ash and debris spewing as far east as Kansas. This extinct caldera became a national preserve in 2005. Some of the oldest fossil remains in the United States have been found in New Mexico as well. In 1908, George McJunkin discovered the remains of bison bones exposed after a flood near Folsom, New Mexico. Interest in these bones led to excavations in 1927, which established that humans had been in North America 10,500 years ago. Then, last year, even older fossil remains were discovered at the White Sands National Park, which suggest that humans had crossed to North America at least 23,000 years ago. The White Sands Park also includes much more recent history with the Trinity Site, which memorializes the test of the first atom bomb.
Chaco Canyon National Historic Park preserves a complex of buildings and pueblos used by the Puebloan people from the ninth to the 13th centuries and was part of a large trading route, with evidence of shells from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean found on the site. It is believed that a lengthy drought led to the decline and ultimate desertion of Chaco as the Puebloan people scattered to other settlements across the state along the Rio Grande valley.
Evidence of Puebloan settlements can be found in the petroglyphs carved in areas around the state. One of these sites, the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque also include petroglyphs made by the incoming Spanish colonists in the 17th century. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland references this ancient history when she refers to herself as a 35th generation New Mexican. Bandelier National Monument also preserves ruins of such settlements. This monument, as well the ancient Puye Cliff Dwellings in Santa Clara and thousands of acres in this and the San Ildefonso pueblos, bear witness in recent years to the recent devastating effect of forest fires, with damage from the 2000 Cerro Grande and 2011 Las Conchas fires.
I will leave you with a brief epilogue that I think helps express the wonder of New Mexico:
In New Mexico, he always awoke a young man … His first consciousness was a sense of the light dry wind blowing in through the windows, with the fragrance of hot sun and sage bush and sweet clover; a wind that made one’s body feel light … that dry aromatic odor …. one could breath that only on the bright edges of the world, on the great grass plains or the sage-brush desert. (Death Comes for the Archbishop)
New Mexico Resources
Wood, Margaret. Inside the New Mexico Supreme Court – Pic of the Week.
Wood, Margaret. New Mexico Supreme Court Library – Pic of the Week.
Wood, Margaret. 1680: the Pueblo Revolt.
Davis, Jennifer. Naaltsoos Sání and the Long Walk Home.
Center for Legislative Archives. New Mexico and Arizona Statehood Anniversary (1912-2012). Accessed January 4, 2022.
Hispanic Reading Room. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Accessed January 5, 2022.
F801.L32 Larson, Robert W. New Mexico’s quest for statehood, 1846-1912.
KFN3630 1856.A225 New Mexico (Ter.). Laws, statutes, etc. Revised statutes of the Territory of New Mexico. To which are prefixed the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the organic law of the Territory. Revised and arranged by order of the Legislative Assembly … by James J. Deavenport.
KFN3625.2 1851a New Mexico (Ter.) Laws, statutes, etc. Letter from the Secretary of State of the Territory of New Mexico, communicating a copy of the acts, resolutions and memorials of the legislative assembly of that Territory, passed at a session begun and held on the 2d June, 1851.
KFN3625.2 1851b New Mexico. Laws of the territory of New Mexico, passed by the first legislative assembly in the city of Santa Fe: at a session begun and held on the second day of June, A.D. 1851, and at a session begun and held on the first day of December, A.D. 1851, to which are prefixed the constitution of the United States and the act of Congress organizing New Mexico as a territory.
KFN3625.2 1855 New Mexico. Laws of the territory of New Mexico: passed by the legislative assembly, 1855-56.
KFN3625.2 1856 New Mexico. Laws of the territory of New Mexico: passed by the legislative assembly, 1856-57.
KFN3625.2 1857 New Mexico. Laws of the territory of New Mexico: passed by the legislative assembly, 1857-58.
KFN3625.2 1858 New Mexico. Laws of the territory of New Mexico: passed by the legislative assembly, session of 1858-9.
KFN3625.2 1859 New Mexico. Laws of the territory of New Mexico: passed by the legislative assembly, session of 1859-60.
KFN3625.2 1860 New Mexico. Laws of the territory of New Mexico: passed by the legislative assembly, session of 1860-61.
KFN3625.2 1861 New Mexico (Ter.). Laws, statutes, etc. Laws of the Territory of New Mexico, passed by the legislative assembly, session of 1861-2.
KFN3625.2 1862 New Mexico. Laws of the terrritory of New Mexico: passed by the legislative assembly, session of 1862-63 / David J. Miller, translator.
KFN3625.2 1863 New Mexico. Laws of the territory of New Mexico, with the joint resolutions : passed by the legislative assembly at the session of 1863-4 / Theodore S. Greiner, translator. (English and Spanish text)
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