Lincoln Canes, Part 2

Governor Zia Pueblo with two canes. 1936

Governor Zia Pueblo with two canes. 1936

A cane, as an official symbol of office, was familiar to the Pueblo people. New MexicoTerritory had previously been part of Mexico. And Spain owned Mexico. Since 1620, the King of Spain had required each Pueblo to choose, at the end of every calendar year, a governor, lieutenant governor, and other officers. Election was by popular vote. Neither Spanish officials nor Catholic church officials could interfere in the elections.
          Each Pueblo had received a silver-headed cane, a vara (meaning “rod” or “pole,” an old Spanish unit of length), as symbol of office. It was passed from one governor to the next in a ceremony held during the first week of every new year.
           The northern territory of Mexico became part of the United States in 1848, after the Mexican American War. Governors of the nineteen Pueblos asked help from Michael Steck, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for New Mexico Territory, in getting United States government patents (titles) to prove that they owned their land. When Steck returned from a trip to Washington City in March 1864, he brought the first batch of completed patents plus new canes as symbols of the Pueblos’ official standing with the government.  
          Despite some stories, President Lincoln did not come to New Mexico Territory to present the canes and the governors did not travel to Washington City to receive them from him in person.

Symbolism and Significance of the Lincoln Canes for the Pueblos of New Mexico, 1994, by Martha LaCroix Daily, available at href=””

Story of the canes: href=””

Photo Courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Published in: on September 2, 2013 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Presidential Gifts

Ouray 1863In this photo, Ouray holds the silver tipped cane presented to him by President Lincoln during an 1863 White House visit.  He wears a Ute delegation sash from the trip to Washington City and the Lincoln Peace Medal presented after the October 1863 treaty council at Conejos.
Published in: on August 31, 2009 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln Peace Medal

A Lincoln Peace Medal

A Lincoln Peace Medal

This Lincoln Peace Medal is like the one presented to Ouray by Lincoln’s secretary, John G. Nicolay, at the conclusion of treaty talks at Conejos, Colorado Territory on October 6, 1863. Ouray had received a silver-tipped cane from President Lincoln during a visit to Washington earlier that same year.

Image courtesy the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian NMAI E-Newservice.

Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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