Acoma’s “Lincoln cane.” The history of canes in Pueblo communities dates back to 1620, when the Spanish decreed that all Pueblo communities be ruled by Governors. The native Governors were given silver-headed canes to represent their authority under Spanish rule. Additionally, land grants were given to the Pueblo communities which provided each with ownership of its land.
When the Mexican government took over in 1821, the Pueblo land grants continued to be honored. The community Governors received canes from the Mexican government as recognition of their authority. Following the Mexican-American War, the Pueblo land grants were recognized by the United States government. In 1863, during Lincoln’s administration, canes were given to19 Pueblos to signify that the Federal government would honor the land grants as previously done by Spain and Mexico and recognize the Governors as the tribal authorities.
The “Lincoln canes,” as they are often called, are silver-headed and inscribed with the presentation year and President Lincoln’s name. They are still used by the Pueblo Governors to represent authority and the Pueblo relationship with the Federal government. As shown in the 1923 photograph (above), the Lincoln canes have always had a ceremonial and political function. Here, several Pueblo leaders are shown in Washington, D.C. protesting the Bursum Bill, which threatened the Pueblos with land loss.