July 21, 2003 by

Paul Bernal


Categories: Extraordinary People

Paul J. Bernal, a Taos Pueblo Indian elder who helped recover some of the lands stolen from his tribe, died on July 16. Cause of death was not released. He was 92.
Since the 17th century, European settlers have encroached on Pueblo Indian lands. Then in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt appropriated the lands surrounding Blue Lake in northern New Mexico, and annexed them into Carson National Forest. The Taos Pueblo Indians tried for decades to get their lands back from the U.S. government, but their efforts were stalled by a language barrier.
Bernal volunteered to serve in the Navy, and was stationed aboard the Ticonderoga during World War II. He polished his English skills, and when he returned home, he became the Pueblo’s interpreter and council secretary.
With the help of Juan de Jesus Romero (Deer Bird), the Pueblo’s religious leader, Bernal negotiated an agreement with the government for the return of the tribe’s lands. The act was signed by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970, and gave the Taos Pueblos 48,000 acres of Carson National Forest to use for “traditional purposes.”

3 Responses to Paul Bernal

  1. Bill

    I visited this man and his son, It was good to hear all the things he did for his people. I gave him a pen when I left, that day.
    The pen is Mightier then the sword…..

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