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Introduction to the Surveys
Land grants were a means to promote settlement and reward military officers and members of the Spanish government. Either the Spanish king or his authorized representatives granted the land to individuals, groups or settlements. Land grants were also a means for Spain to control who would settle in its provinces. The system was widely used not only in Louisiana, but throughout the Spanish world. In the United States, they were primarily used in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Basically, there were two kinds of grants: one given to an individual and another to settlers for a new town. Individuals receiving a grant were required to live on it and to make improvements. In the case of a community land grant, the bulk of the surrounding land was for grazing, timber and other similar uses. Members of the community could own a small piece of farmland adjacent to a source of water.
In some areas, especially in the current state of New Mexico, authorities employed the Four Square League law. It required that land – one league in each direction of an Indian pueblo be reserved for the Indian communities. It resulted in political and ethnic boundaries for the communities, while helping to sustain their culture.