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United States V. Don Pedro Leon Lujan et al.: 1851-52

Lujan Ordered Not To Trade With Indians

In 1848 New Mexico became part of the United States, and as a result, the status of Mexican traders was about to change dramatically. Events leading up to Lujan's arrest began with his peaceful request to Brigham Young, Utah's governor and ex officio superintendent of Indian affairs, for the extension or renewal of his trading license. In order to do this, Lujan had to find Young, who in the fall of 1851 was somewhere in Utah's Sanpete Valley. His purpose was to show Young his New Mexico license and find out "if it was good to trade with the Whites and Indians also, and if the license was not good, to endeavor to get one from the Governor." On November 3 he finally found Young. Instead of getting a license, Lujan got a lecture on the evils of Indian slavery. Young "pointedly forbade" the Mexicans to trade anything with the Indians. Lujan agreed to abide by the Mormon's decision and leave the territory after procuring supplies for the return trip.

But the Indians, accustomed to the traditional trade with Mexican traders, had other ideas. They stole livestock from Lujan's party, and the Ute slavers forced nine captives on to the New Mexicans. Shortly afterward, the Mormon authorities arrested Lujan and his associates for trading without a valid license with Indian captives in their possession. They were taken first to court in Manti and later to the First District Court of Utah Territory in Great Salt Lake City. The main issue in the trial was the trading in Indian slaves. Slavery itself was not illegal in Utah, so Lujan and the others were charged with violating the Trade and Intercourse Act of 1834, which prohibited trading with the Indians without a valid license.

In 1851 the Utah civil judiciary came under the control of a federally appointed supreme court, which presided over the territory's three judicial districts. The district courts were to hear non-Mormon and criminal cases. The federal judges immediately came into conflict with the Mormon leadership, and by mid-September most of the non-Mormon judges had returned to Washington, leaving the Mormon, Zerubbabel Snow, the only district judge in Utah. He was authorized to serve all three districts until new judges were appointed. But this still left the territory without a Supreme Court, so district cases could not be appealed.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882United States V. Don Pedro Leon Lujan et al.: 1851-52 - A Well-established Slave Trade, Lujan Ordered Not To Trade With Indians, Traders Brought To Trial