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United 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

Defendants: Don Pedro Lujan
Crimes Charged: Violation of the Trade and Intercourse Act of 1834, libel and indebtedness to the United States
Chief Defense Lawyers: George A. Smith (chief counsel), Josiah Slayton, William Pickett
Chief Prosecutor: Seth M. Blair
Judge: Zerubbabel Snow
Place: Great Salt Lake City, Utah
Dates of Trials: December 30, 1851-January 1, 1852; January 15-17, 1852
Verdict: Guilty

SIGNIFICANCE: The trial was an opportunity for the newly formed Utah Territory to assert its control over the Indian slave trade.

In December 1851, authorities from Manti, Utah, arrested eight Spanish traders. Their leader was 57-year-old Don Pedro Leon Lujan of Abiquiu, New Mexico. The men were accused of violating the laws that regulated trade with the Indian tribes under the federal Trade and Intercourse Act of 1834. The New Mexicans allegedly had traded with the Ute Indians for nine slaves—one woman and eight children. Before leaving for Utah, Lujan had gone to James Calhoun, the governor and superintendent of Indian affairs for the New Mexico Territory, to get a license to trade with the Ute. He had posted a $1,000 bond and promised to follow "all the rules and regulations, adopted or that may be adopted" by the United States regulating commerce with the Indians in Utah. He received a license on August 14, 1851, which was valid until November 14, to trade with the "Utah Nation of Indians … in their own localities." Although the Ute lived mainly inside the Utah Territory and not in New Mexico, Calhoun seemed unaware of the actual extent of his jurisdiction or the fact that he could not issue licenses to govern Lujan's conduct outside of New Mexico.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882