Laguna Pueblo Indian RRers, Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about how eminent domain played a role in the development of the railroad, specifically looking at Native American lands.

The Laguna Pueblo Indians had agreements with Atchison Topeka Santa Fe Railways that allowed the building of the railroad through their land. Instead of taking money for the right of way, the Laguna wanted their men to be hired as railroad labor. Many of the Laguna workers set up little villages, or little pueblos, along the tracks that allowed for whole families to join them while at work. They set up little sections along the railroad from Albuquerque to Barstow, CA. Hundreds of Laguna Pueblo men found steady work and able to still have their family, culture, language, and food. And as with the Navajo, there were generations of Laguna Railroaders following the work on the railroad.

(Although the tracks run close to south border of the Navajo Reservation, the building of the railroads never occupied Navajo lands. The way Navajo men came to work on the railroad required them to leave behind their family and homeland for months at a time.)

I read some of the books from Laguna authors Leslie Marmon Silko and Paula Gunn Allen, but the University of Arizona did not teach me about Laguna railroad workers. I thought the railroads maintained themselves. After we completed our edit and streamlined our story for Metal Road, I learned of a new book that compared two different responses of the Santo Domingo Pueblo and the Laguna Pueblo to the railroads. Santo Domingo resisted the railroads whereas the Laguna decided to work for the railroads. Unfortunately I never did get to read this book by Richard Frost, The Railroad and the Pueblo Indians: The Impact of the Atchinson Topeka Santa Fe on the Pueblos of the Rio Grande 1880-1930 (2016). Maybe it’s the next film.

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