The original research for resolution of the Hidalgo Treaty dispute was done by Senator Joseph Montoya over 20 years ago. The current bill seeking the establishment of a commission board to review related claims follows in his footsteps and is virtually identical to the bill introduced by Bill Richardson in early 1997. I strongly support the advancement of that legislation. We must achieve a just resolution for heirs of land grant recipients under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The situation in Los Alamos is not as widely known. However, a just resolution should also be sought for Los Alamos Homesteaders and others who were affected by the establishment of LANL. In fact, precedence may already exist for resolution of that dispute. Similar claims have already been resolved at White Sands, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Richland, Washington. These claims all arise from similar disputes over private lands taken for the national nuclear effort.
At the start of World War II, a secret emergency effort was launched by the U.S. and its allies to master the physics of nuclear fission. Germany was working towards the same objective, and with full knowledge that success meant it would possess the means for producing the most destructive weapon ever known to man: the atomic bomb.
In response to this war time emergency ad hoc research facilities were quickly established in secrecy across the nation. Land had to be acquired for this purpose. Frequently public lands could be located for these facilities, but sometimes private land ha d to be taken as well. As a result, many private citizens lost land to the wartime emergency in places like Washington, Tennessee and Los Alamos.
Those who had lands taken from them in New Mexico included Anglo ranchers, Hispanic homesteaders, and Native American communities. While most, if not all, presumably received some degree of compensation from the federal government, many questioned the fairness and perhaps even the legality of the process used to take such lands. Many have questioned the adequacy of compensation given, including whether it took into account loss of livelihood (e.g. grazing and farming), sudden forced displacement of entire families, and land improvements such as tree removal, land leveling, irrigation systems, water wells, crops and orchards, homes and other structures.
Recent newspaper articles recount stories of Los Alamos Plateau Homesteaders being given little more than 24 hours to get off of their land. Some were promised they could return for their possessions, but, upon return found their homes bulldozed to the ground and possessions strewn around. Many believed that at the end of the war their lands would be returned. They were being displaced by a secret war effort code named the Los Alamos Project, part of a national initiative code-named the Manhattan Project. The term "project" seemed to signify non-permanence.
Ironically, while fathers, uncles, nephews and sons of many Homesteaders were in Europe fighting tyranny, family members left behind on the Los Alamos Plateau were being forced to leave their lands by their own government. Such irony fuels much of the out rage still felt today, are more than 50 years, by Hispanic Homesteaders of the Los Alamos Plateau and their heirs.
As congressman, I would seek fair and equitable treatment of all people, regardless of the issue, the players or the politics involved. I would support resolution of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty dispute in accordance with the initiative started by Bill Richardson and the companion legislation offered by Senator Bingaman. I am also committed to giving fair consideration to those who have claims to lands taken during the establishment of Los Alamos National Laboratory, including the Los Alamos Homesteaders, Native Americans in the area and the City of Los Alamos. When legislation is considered to deal with LANL surplus land, it is essential that we give fair consideration to Homesteaders and Native Americans whose land was taken.
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