Guide to the Records of the Land Rights Council

Prepared by Patricia J. Rettig and Steven Emmen
Colorado State University Water Resources Archive
A joint effort of the University Libraries and the Colorado Water Institute
Copyright 2017 Colorado State University. All rights reserved.
Finding aid encoded in EAD Version 2002 by Patricia J. Rettig, 2017.
Creator: Land Rights Council
Title: Records of the Land Rights Council
Dates: 1958-2009
Bulk Dates: 1966-1999
Quantity: 6 linear feet (4 record cartons)
Identification: WLRC
Abstract: Based in San Luis, Colorado, the Land Rights Council was formed in 1978 as a grassroots advocacy organization to protect the community's rights originally received under the Mexican land grant system. The Council has been committed not only to regaining historic rights to the mountain tract called La Sierra, but also to maintaining its ecological health. The collection primarily consists of administrative records, research files, and court case files.
Contact Information: Water Resources Archive
Archives and Special Collections
Morgan Library
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1019 USA
Phone: 970-491-1844
Fax: 970-491-1195
Restrictions on Access
A few folders are restricted because of the presence of attorney-client materials and are open only to Council board members and attorneys.
Restrictions on Use
Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the Colorado State University Libraries online catalog. Researchers seeking materials about related subjects, persons, organizations, or places should search the catalog using these headings.
  • Land grants -- Colorado.
  • Nonprofit organizations.
  • Chicano movement.
  • Social action.
  • Community organization.
  • Trials.
  • Land Rights Council.
  • Sangre de Cristo Grant (Colo. and N.M.)
  • Taylor Ranch (Colo.)
  • San Luis (Colo.)
  • Costilla County (Colo.)
  • San Luis Valley (Colo. and N.M.)
  • Rio Grande Watershed (Colo.-Mexico and Tex.)
Based in San Luis, Colorado, the Land Rights Council was formed in 1978 as a grassroots advocacy organization to protect the community's rights originally received under the Mexican land grant system. The Council has been committed not only to regaining historic rights to La Sierra through a series of court cases, but also to maintaining its ecological health. This mountain tract east of town is the source of three rivers and many tributary streams, used for the area's acequia-based agriculture. The group has been part of both the Chicano rights movement in Colorado and one of the longest running court cases in the country.
The Land Rights Council, run by a volunteer board of directors, was founded by Apolinar Rael, Ray Otero, and Shirley Romero with a grant from the Catholic Church's Campaign for Human Development. Their main initial activity involved conducting research and gathering documentation related to the land grant and descendants of the original settlers. This laid the groundwork for a class action lawsuit filed in 1981 on behalf of more than 100 successors. Rael v. Taylor made its way to the Colorado Supreme Court where it was reversed and remanded to the trial court in 1994. The primary attorney representing the plaintiffs pro bono from 1978 until 2002 was Jeffrey Goldstein.
The land in question, in what is now Costilla County at the southern end of Colorado's San Luis Valley, used to be Mexican territory. In 1843 it was established as the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant. Mexican land grant laws recognized the land and its natural resources as communal in use, and its later owner, Carlos Beaubien, guaranteed in writing the inhabitants' rights to pastures, water, firewood, and timber. In 1960 North Carolina lumberman John T. (Jack) Taylor purchased more than 77,000 acres of the grant, including the 14,069-foot mountain Culebra Peak, with the intention of logging it. He established the private Taylor Ranch immediately east of the town of San Luis.
Over the decades, the Land Rights Council has worked to defend the rights of the descendants of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant by organizing the community, publishing educational materials, establishing a communication network, and holding conferences and workshops. Their actions have also been essential to the protection of the ecological health of the water, grazing land, and timber.
In 1998, the Lobato v. Taylor trial retried the Rael case in the Costilla County District Court. It ascended to the Colorado Supreme Court, which rendered a decision in favor of the plaintiffs in 2002, issued in 2016. Taylor passed away in 1988 and the land, now known as Cielo Vista Ranch, changed hands several times, with the current owner having chosen to appeal the case no further, as of fall 2018. The Land Rights Council continues to work on expanding rights and ensuring equitable environmental governance.
The Records of the Land Rights Council consists of documents dated 1958 to 2009, with the bulk falling from 1966 to 1999. The collection documents the Council's activities, research conducted for the initial court case, and the series of resulting cases. The Council's activities are documented through meeting minutes, reports, letters, clippings, grant proposals, and legal documents. Documentation is not comprehensive in part due to the varying level of activities of the Council over the years and the volunteer nature of the board. Most documents included in the research files are photocopies of original documents that date back to the mid-1800s and serve as the basis for the litigation. The court case files are not a complete record of the proceedings, but do contain extensive documentation of the plaintiffs. Note that some materials, especially among the research files, are in Spanish.
Only the research files were donated with a clearly discernible order. The other materials were separated into series by documentation type.
The collection consists of 4 series in 4 boxes:
Preferred Citation

Records of the Land Rights Council, Water Resources Archive, Colorado State University.


The Records of the Land Rights Council was acquired by the Water Resources Archive in August 2017 from the Land Rights Council. Shirley Romero Otero, president of the Council, donated the collection on behalf of the organization.


Processing was completed in October 2017. Materials were rehoused in acid-free folders. All metal fasteners were removed and replaced with archival fasteners as needed. Photographs were placed in archival sleeves. Duplicates beyond the first two copies were removed, and files were rearranged into series order. Some folder titles were clarified to better indicate contents.

Online Materials

Most materials have been scanned and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.

Note: Title information supplied by the archivist is bracketed. Estimated pagination is preceded by an "e." Two identical copies of the same item are indicated by the phrase "2 copies" at the end of the entry, following the number of pages of each copy.

Series 1: Administrative documents, 1978-2008 and undated (0.25 linear feet)

This series consists of the Land Rights Council's administrative documents, including bylaws, an organization chart, board meeting minutes and agendas, reports, and financial information. The folders of meeting minutes also contain associated materials, such as letters, court documents, and budget reports. Files are organized with general materials first, then meeting minutes folders in chronological order, followed by financial materials. One file is restricted to Council board members and attorneys.
Box Folder
1 1 Land Rights Council, non-profit material. 1978-1980, 1997. e15pp. VIEW
1 2 Bylaws, 2005 (articles of incorporation). 2004-2005. e50pp. VIEW
1 3 LRC Board of Directors, organization chart. undated. 1p. 2 copies VIEW
1 4 Meeting minutes. 1978-1982. e100pp. VIEW
1 5 Meeting minutes. 1994. e40pp.
1 6 Meeting minutes. 1997-1999, 2003. e50pp. VIEW
1 7 Meeting minutes. 2004. e50pp. VIEW
1 8 Meeting minutes. 2005-2006. e100pp. VIEW
1 9 Board meetings, reports, and forms. 2008. e25pp. VIEW
1 10 Audit - Wall, Smith, Bateman, and Associates, Inc. 1980. 4pp. VIEW
1 11 Funding reports. 1996-1998. e30pp. VIEW

Series 2: Activity files, 1977-2009 and undated (1.25 linear feet)

This series consists of files related to the Land Rights Council's activities. This includes files of news clippings, press releases, and grant proposals, as well as information on related or partner organizations. This series is arranged alphabetically by folder title.
Box Folder
1 12 1993 map of La Sierra. 1993. 3pp. VIEW
1 13 Activities. 2001. 3pp., 6 photographs VIEW
1 14 Activities. 2002. 10pp. VIEW
1 15 Activities. 2004. 8pp. VIEW
1 16 Attachments. 1980-1997. e45pp. VIEW
1 17 Attorney info. undated. 10pp. VIEW
1 18 Chinook Fund 2008 - grant application. 2008. 15pp. VIEW
1 19 Cielo Vista - inventory report. 2007-2008. e65pp. VIEW
1 20 Cielo Vista Ranch, Culebra Peak hiking info. 1980-2000, undated. 13pp. VIEW
1 21 Colorado Arts 2008 - grant application. 2008. e60pp., 1 CD VIEW
1 22 Colorado Humanities proposal. 2008. e75pp. VIEW
1 23 Colorado Lawyers Committee awards (legal team 2003). 1982. e100pp. VIEW
1 24 Conference. 2005. 2pp., 20 photographs VIEW
1 25 Conference/evaluation forms. 2004. e60pp. VIEW
1 26 County commission tapes. 1979 June 04. 2 audiocassette tapes
Digital audio available on site.
1 27 Flyer. 2008. 1p. VIEW
1 28 Forest Wisdom publications. 2007-2009, undated. e55pp. VIEW
1 29-31 Gloria Maestas, daily calendar. 2004-2005. e250pp. VIEW
1 32 Highlights of Mountain Tract's history. c. 2003. 4pp. VIEW
1 33 Industrial logging. 1997. 7pp. VIEW
1 34 Inventory. undated. e50pp. VIEW
1 35 Los Herederos Grazing Association. 2006-2008. 14pp. VIEW
1 36 Membership form. 2005. 3pp. VIEW
1 37 Native Communities Global Forum. 1997. e45pp. VIEW
1 38 News clippings. 1977-1980. e30pp. VIEW
1 39 News clippings. 1994-1995. 15pp. VIEW
1 40 News clippings. 2002. 13pp. VIEW
1 41 News clippings. 2004. e50pp. VIEW
1 42 News clippings. 2005. e35p. VIEW
1 43 News clippings. 2007-2009. 15pp. VIEW
1 44 Photographs: Parade. 2005. 13 photographs VIEW
1 45 Press releases. 1979-1982, 1994. e45pp. VIEW
1 46 Proposal narrative. undated. e45pp. VIEW
1 47 Sangre de Cristo Land Grant Commission report (draft). 1993. e50pp. VIEW
1 48 Taylor partnership - research. 2003. e50pp. VIEW
1 49 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. undated. 10pp. VIEW
1 50 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo - U.S. General Accounting Office reports. 2001, 2004. e300pp.

Series 3: Research files, 1958-1994 and undated (3 linear feet)

This series consists of materials assembled and used for background research about the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant, its history, ownership, and original settlers and descendants. Most of the folders contain photocopies and/or typescripts of original documents from books, archival repositories, or courthouse files. Materials include court decisions, court transcripts, deeds, directories, letters, surveys, and more. Original documents found here include court case documents, including some from cases pre-dating Rael v. Taylor, as well as some correspondence. Files are arranged following the index at the start of the series, which is roughly alphabetical, along with additional folders found interfiled but not listed. Two files are restricted to Council board members and attorneys.
Box Folder
2 1 Research index. undated. 7pp. VIEW
2 2 A.A. Salazar papers (Colorado Historical Society). undated. 5pp.
2 3-4 Abstracts. undated. e100pp.
2 5 Apolinar Rael papers. 1968-1978, undated. e20pp. VIEW
2 6 Association (correspondence and writing). 1963, 1974, c. 1981, undated. 11pp., 1 photograph VIEW
2 7 Attorneys 1913-1914, Who's Who 1938, Important people 1899 [photocopies]. undated. 9pp.
2 8 Beaubien deeds. undated. e70pp. VIEW
2 9 Blackmore papers. undated. e45pp.
2 10 Beaubien heirs. undated. 1p. VIEW
2 11 The Brand Book - Sangre de Cristo. undated. 12pp.
2 12 Ralph Carr. undated. 10pp.
Concerns William Gilpin and Trinchera Estate Company
2 13 Carr - Private land claims in Colorado (1948). undated. 10pp.
2 14 Colorado Supreme Court ruling. 1994. e50pp. VIEW
2 15 Commission for the Defense of the Culebra. undated. 8pp. VIEW
2 16 Costilla County subdivision regulations. 1971. 18pp. VIEW
2 17 Community Land Grants (Re: C. DuMars). undated. e30pp.
2 18 Correspondence. 1979-1980. 6pp. VIEW
2 19 Decisions: U.S. vs. M.G. Vallejo. undated. 5pp.
2 20 Decisions: A.A. Salazar vs. Donaciano Martinez et al. undated. e40pp.
2 21 Decisions: A.A. Salazar, Delfino Salazar, Wm. Meyer vs. Enrique Jacquez. 1960, undated. 9pp. VIEW
2 22 Decisions: De Mares vs. Gilpin. undated. 7pp.
2 23 Decisions: Costilla Estates vs. S.N. Smith et al. undated. 3pp. VIEW
2 24 Decisions: Wilson et al. vs. Omaha Indian Tribe et al. undated. e25pp.
2 25 Deeds: "Gilpin" - Book 1 page 229. undated. 6pp. VIEW
2 26 Deeds: (Re: Gaspar) - Page 577, book 98. undated. 9pp. VIEW
2 27 Deeds: Taylor - Page 71, book 174. undated. 3pp. VIEW
2 28 Directory. undated. e20pp.
2 29-31 Eubanks vs. Adelmo Albert, vol. I-III. 1958-1980. e100pp. VIEW
2 32 Eubanks subdivision info. 1980. 5pp. VIEW
2 33 Foreign law: Kearney Code, Halls Laws of Mexico. undated. 8pp.
2 34 Gilpin agreement (re: Exhibit A). 1965, undated. e40pp.
2 35 William Gilpin. undated. e35pp. Includes maps
2 36 The Parks of Colorado, Wm. Gilpin. undated. 8pp.
2 37 Grantee-Grantor Index - San Luis Courthouse. undated. 4pp.
2 38 Interviews. 1979, undated. e50pp. VIEW
2 39 J.L. Gaspar - attorney in fact. undated. e20pp.
2 40 J.M. Lobato. undated. 1p.
2 41 Bibliography by Alice Sharp. undated. 2pp. VIEW
2 42 Kellogg Survey fraud 1882. undated. 11pp.
2 43 Land transaction. undated. 3pp. VIEW
2 44 Leases (re: agriculture, grazing, wood). undated. 10pp.
2 45 Legislative proclamation of 1885. undated. 5pp.
2 46 Legal bibliography. undated. e25pp. VIEW
2 47 Luis Valdez. 1960-1962. e25pp. VIEW
2 48 Map A, book E: Introduction. undated. 4pp.
2 49-51 Map A, Book E: Part I-III. undated. e170pp.
2 52 Maps. undated. 2pp.
2 53 Maxwell Land Grant. undated. 1p.
2 54 Commons: Vol. I pg. 256 Beaubien deed to Settlers. undated. 16pp. VIEW
2 55 Meyer letter to Rocky Mt. News - Dec. 16, 1861. undated. 2pp.
2 56 Meyer et al. vs. Thomas Keely et al. undated. e75pp.
2 57 Mexican land grants - Leroy Hafen. undated. 7pp.
2 58 Misc. - loose documents. undated. 11pp. VIEW
2 59 Non-resident service - case 6904. undated. 10pp. VIEW
2 60 New Yorker article, 26 April 1976. 1976. 7pp.
2 61 Old documents people brought in. 1969, undated. 14pp. VIEW
2 62 Patent: Sangre de Cristo grant. undated. e25pp.
2 63 Property (Encomienda). undated. e25pp.
2 64 Prospectus [gold mining]. undated. 3pp.
2 65 Private land claims. undated. e30pp.
2 66 Petition from Luis Lee and Narcisso Beaubien. undated. 2pp.
2 67 Edmunds bill for settling private land claims - H.R. 5963. 1979. 7pp.
2 68 Pueblo de Taos lands. undated. 8pp.
2 69 List 9463: Land and Law in the Southwest and Mexico. undated. 16pp.
2 70 Louisiana Law Review, Formalities of private real estate transactions in Spanish North America. undated. 2pp.
2 71 Retainer agreements. 1980-1982. e80pp.
2 72 Resolution (Colorado Hispanic American Democrats). 1979. 9pp. VIEW
2 73 Disturnell's map. undated. 2pp. VIEW
2 74 LRC retainer agreement - 1980. 1980. 1p.
2 75 Research agreement. 1979. 6pp. VIEW
2 76 Secretary of State - correspondence. 1979-1980, undated. e25pp.
2 77 Settlement of land grant - Re: inducement. undated. 1p. VIEW
2 78 Sanchez v. Taylor - brief [U.S. Court of Appeals no. 8600]. undated. e60pp. VIEW
3 1 Surveyor general report 4. undated. e150pp. VIEW
3 2 (Letter from) Sect. of Interior. undated. 5pp.
3 3 Survey: Blackmore Tract. undated. 2pp.
3 4 Empresado - San Antonio, NM. undated. 3pp.
3 5 San Luis history - Abundo Martinez. undated. 2pp.
3 6 Tepley's trial notes. 1961, undated. e25pp. VIEW
3 7 Local research outline. undated. 4pp. VIEW
3 8 LRC research. 1979, undated. e30pp. VIEW
3 9 Tepley resource list. undated. 4pp. VIEW
3 10 Eugene Tepley - Law notes. undated. e45pp. VIEW
3 11 Aspen Lake transaction. undated. 2pp. VIEW
3 12 Ralph Taylor article. undated. 7pp.
3 13 Transcript of proceeding on appeal [U.S. District Court no. 6904]. 1966. e60pp. VIEW
3 14 Taylor vs. Jaquez [U.S. District Court no. 6904]. 1961-1965. e35pp. VIEW
3 15 Sanchez vs. Taylor [U.S. Court of Appeals no. 8600]. 1966. 32pp. 2 copies VIEW
3 16 Sanchez vs. Taylor (10th circuit - brief) no. 8600. 1966-1967. e75pp. VIEW
3 17-20 Transcript: Taylor vs. Pablita Jaquez, et al. - official transcript vol. I [U.S. District Court no. 6904]. 1966. e300pp. VIEW
3 21-23 Transcript: Taylor vs. Pablita Jaquez, et al. - official transcript vol. II [U.S. District Court no. 6904]. 1966. e250pp. VIEW
3 24 List of defendants in Taylor vs. Pablita Jaquez. 1962. e30pp. VIEW
3 25 Taylor vs. Ralph Maestas [District Court civil action no. 1586]. 1970. 11pp. VIEW
3 26 (1990's) Taylor warranty deed exhibit I. undated. 8pp.
3 27 The Texas Possibility. undated. e100pp.
3 28 Territorial and judicial courthouses of San Luis Valley. undated. 21pp.
3 29 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. undated. e25pp.
3 30 Trinchera Estate Co. vs. J.C.L. Valdez et al. undated. 8pp. VIEW
3 31 Trinchera Estate Company. undated. 10pp.
3 32 Armando Trujillo document. undated. 2pp. 2 copies
3 33 US Freehold Land and Emigration Company [USFLEC]. undated. e25pp.
3 34 USFLEC 1877 - filings of land owned. undated. 15pp.
3 35 US Freehold vs. Morton Coats Fisher. undated. e25pp.
3 36 USFLEC vs. Juan Ignacio Jacquez - Easterday deposition. undated. 17pp.
3 37 US Freehold Land and Emigration vs. Dolores Sanchez. undated. 2pp.
3 38 Juan Ignacio Jacques vs. USFLEC - Fredrick Muller deposition. undated. 6pp.
3 39 USFLEC vs. Juan Ignacio Jacquez - J.L. Gaspar deposition. undated. e25pp.
3 40 US Consulate General Book 7; pg 28, 29, 30. undated. 7pp. VIEW
3 41 US Supreme Court and land grants. undated. e25pp.
3 42 Vega map. undated. 1 folded sheet VIEW
3 43 Misc. materials on Vega. 1979, undated. e45pp. VIEW
3 44 Varas. undated. e50pp.
3 45 LRC research correspondence (1979-1980). 1979-1980. 10pp. VIEW
3 46 Individuals who testified in the 1960's - Tepley notes. undated. 3pp. VIEW
3 47 Eugene Tepley correspondence. 1966-1967. 4pp. VIEW
3 48 Work product I. undated. e100pp.
3 49 Work product II. undated. e100pp.
3 50 Work product III. undated. e75pp.

Series 4: Court case files, 1962-2009 and undated (1.5 linear feet)

The materials in this series focus on the Rael v. Taylor and Lobato v. Taylor court cases. The files include background legal research, information about or from the legal team, and court documents. Files are arranged chronologically with undated ones at the end. Five files are restricted to Council board members and attorneys.
Box Folder
4 1 Exhibit A and B. 1962. 8pp. 2 copies VIEW
Exhibit A: "Complete and correct list of all original answers to interrogatories filed, as discovered on examination of court file on July 24, 1962"; Exhibit B: "List of defendants who have not filed answers to interrogatories"
4 2 Costilla Co. Sheriff's daybook, service, Taylor cases. 1962-1966. 16pp. VIEW
4 3 Community petition for La Sierra. 1975, undated. e20pp. VIEW
4 4 Legal background on property. 1977. e35pp. VIEW
4 5 List of persons who filled out LRC questions up to 8-4-80. c. 1980. 14pp. VIEW
4 6 1960 property owners. 1980. e25pp. VIEW
4 7 Legal memo. 1980. 24pp.
4 8-9 Retainer agreement - LRC authorization by plaintiff. 1980. e200pp.
4 10 Retainer agreement. 1980-1981. e30pp.
4 11 Legal team correspondence. 1980-1982. e100pp.
4 12 Service of summons. c. 1981. e25pp. VIEW
4 13 District Court - Case 81CV5. 1981. e50pp. 2 copies VIEW
4 14 Legal Action 1981 (81-F-517). 1981. 13pp. VIEW
4 15 1980-1989 plaintiffs - death certificates. 1985-2001. 12pp.
4 16 Torrens. 1987. 6pp. VIEW
4 17 1992 Supreme Court Rule. 1992. 10pp. 2 copies VIEW
4 18 Exhibit A: Rael vs. Taylor. 1993. e100pp. VIEW
Contains "Preliminary manuscript on the history of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grand [sic Grant] and the claims of the people of the Culebra River Villages on their lands" by Marianne L. Stoller
4 19 Legal team proposal. 1995. 8pp. VIEW
4 20 Case 81CV5. 1997. 11pp. VIEW
4 21 CLC [Colorado Lawyers Committee] letter to plaintiffs 6/23/1997. 1997, undated. 12pp. VIEW
4 22 Legal team/Impact Fund. 1997-1998. 13pp. VIEW
4 23 Lobato v. Taylor - notice of appeal (81CV5). 1998. e40pp. 2 copies VIEW
4 24 Bond on appeal. 1998. e35pp. VIEW
4 25 Lobato v. Taylor, Colorado Supreme Court case no. 00 SC 527. 2001. e25pp. VIEW
4 26 Clarification - access rights. 2005. e60pp. VIEW
4 27 Access holders - 2005 report. 2005. e70pp. VIEW
4 28 Holland and Hart. 2005-2008. 22pp. VIEW
4 29 Motion to access gates. 2005, 2008. e45pp. VIEW
4 30 Notice of intended use - case #81CV5. 2006. 6pp. VIEW
4 31 Legal Clinic. 2009. 5pp. VIEW
4 32 1959 landowner tables. undated. e20pp. 2 copies VIEW
4 33 1979 property owners. undated. e40pp. VIEW
4 34 Defendants list - non-resident addresses. undated. e35pp. VIEW
4 35 Legal team, contact info. undated. 2pp. VIEW
4 36 Plaintiff and defendant lists. undated. e40pp. VIEW
4 37 Plaintiff interview sheet. undated. 21pp. VIEW
4 38 Rael vs. Taylor - Interrogatories. undated. 4pp. 2 copies VIEW