Which is why the visit of Kim Agnew last month has given them further hope. Miss Agnew, a shy, pretty girl, rode with a dozen Indians and a dozen policemen, newsmen and advisers—ore of whom was Len Garment, the Nixon counselor—up to Blue Lake from the Red River side of the mountain. The lake, which gets its name from the intensity with which it reflects the sky, is at 11,500 feet. Storms are often encountered en route while the valley below is sunny. Miss Agnew sat gasping on a rock, her head down, understandably stricken by the altitude, while it was discussed whether to try to fly her down in a helicopter. But she rode back on a horse to finish the 10-hour journey. When the Indians go up to Blue Lake they usually leave from their pueblo, a round trip of 46 miles. Their secret ceremonies up there last three days, and two more days are required for traveling. In the course of the Blue Lake watershed are some 60 Indian shrines, of which Garment said he recognized only Blue Lake. "Even some people in the Forest Service say there are no shrines up there," says John Yaple, an adopted member of a Taos Pueblo family and curator of the M. A. Rogers Foundation and Museum near Taos. "They're looking for man-made structures. But every source of water is a shrine—no need for a building around it. The Indians don't think they can improve on the work of God." Later in a speech at the pueblo Garment did refer to Blue Lake as "a sacred tabernacle" and confessed to being "deeply impressed" by the Indians' refusal to accept money for their Blue Lake claim. "A spiritual vision cannot be compensated by money," said Garment.
With the Taos Mountains rearing abruptly behind the dun-colored pueblos on a bright, crisp day and the clear Rio Pueblo de Taos flowing between the adobe buildings. Miss Agnew presented Pueblo Governor Querino Romero, 64, with a silver-headed cane from Nixon. He replied with a speech in Tiwa, the Indian language. She danced in a circle with men carrying eagle feathers and corn rattles and women wearing buckskin, long silk dresses and bright blankets. Bells chinked, bone whistles tooted, chanters and drummers kept up a hypnotic tempo. New Mexico Governor David Cargo said, "At long last we are keeping faith." Louis R. Bruce, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, called it "a day of justice." But Garment admitted he is not especially confident the Blue Lake measure will reach the floor of the Senate. The one man influential enough to push the bill through and return the Indian land is Clinton Anderson, senior Senator from New Mexico. As Secretary of Agriculture under Truman, he was once chief of the Forest Service. But Anderson is backing an alternate bill that will give the Indians exclusive use of 1,640 acres surrounding Blue Lake and require them to submit to "restricted entry" by non-Indians in the rest of the watershed.
There are about 1,000 Indians living in the Taos pueblo now and another 500 have gone out to find work in the white man's world. Most of the exiles have formed nontribal groups with other Indians in the cities to study the old ways. "The educated ones have experienced white society and made up their minds they don't want it," Yaple says. "They prefer their own religion, which is nature—not to waste anything in nature, not to harm anything unnecessarily. They understand the relationship between nature and the spirit. The white man is beginning to see that, too, and he calls it ecology, but it will take him a long time." When an Anglo turns his tap and what comes gushing out of the spigot is brown and smelly, that is when he is reminded, as the Indians have always remembered, that water is the source of life.