Skip to main content

Lisa Law Big Mountain Weaving Project and Santa Fe Big Mountain Defense Support Group Papers

Identifier: MSS-857-BC

Scope and Content

The Santa Fe Big Mountain Defense Support Group is the most prominent theme in the collection. Law headed this group for twelve years, in the 1970s and 1980s. The collection documents this group's efforts to repeal PL 93-531 via pamphlets, flyers, newspaper and magazine articles, newsletters, videos, press releases, letterwriting campaigns to Governor Bill Richardson and Congress, petitions, position papers, testimonies, informational packets, and fact sheets. Three folders of correspondence are included. The collection contains a small assortment of interviews conducted by Law, including her interview with documentary filmmaker Bahe Keediniihii. The files are organized alphabetically.

Native American Issues and International Activism (outside of the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Act) documents traditional indigenous nations of the world coming together in support of Native American sovereignty, including the defense of the Western Shoshone as a nation and the International Indian Treaty Conference – a nongovernmental organization representing 99 traditional indigenous nations. The majority of materials in this section pertain to activism outside of Big Mountain Defense and the Hopi-Navajo Relocation Act, however there is some overlap, an example being Big Mountain’s participation in the Ninth International Indian Treaty Congress, dedicated to the preservation and continuity of American Indian cultures. Documents include an agenda, newspaper articles, newsletters, petitions, press releases, reports and resolutions. Simultaneously in New Mexico, in support of actions at the Ninth International Indian Treaty Congress, Navajo and Hopi people staged a unity march. The collection includes a flyer, permit, press releases, and notes on the march. Materials also document international activism to restore world peace and respect for the earth through the spiritual teachings and traditions of Native American people including faxes, interviews, lectures, and promotional materials for the “Back to Your Senses" Native American Celebration Art Festival.

The final theme in the collection is the Big Mountain Weaving Project: Women in Resistance. Law, along with many others, helped raise money for this project. A collection of photographs by Law of Navajo weavers is noteworthy. As the Weaving Project’s aim and the goal of Big Mountain Defense overlap, materials in both parts of the collection also overlap. Weaving Project files include photographs and copies of photographs, press releases, correspondence, faxes, board of directors’ lists, flyers, newspaper clippings, and pamphlets.


  • 1974-2007
  • Majority of material found within 1985-1989


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Born in 1943, Lisa Law grew up in Burbank, California in a middle class family consisting of her father, Lee Bachelis, a furrier, her mother, Selma Mikels, an attorney, and two brothers, Gregory Frank and Guy. After a year and half at John Burrows High School in Burbank, she attended Galileo High School in San Francisco, California for her last semester and a half of school. She spent her free time exploring the Bohemian communities of North Beach and Sausalito, and eventually moved to Marin when she was 18. Her father shot documentaries of his trips to Mexico and the work he did organizing unions in the Los Angeles area, and gave Lisa her first camera, a Brownie, at the age of 8. She started documenting her life from that moment on. In 1964, Frank Weber gave her a professional camera and employed her as his personal assistant and asked her to photograph some of the folk groups that he managed: the Kingston Trio, We 5, and Sons of Champlin. She then attended College of Marin and San Francisco City College for two years where her majors were music and photography. She met her future husband, Tom Law, road manager for the folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, at a concert in Berkeley that both Frank and Lisa attended together.

In 1966, Lisa and Tom Law lived in "The Castle" in Los Angeles, owned by Tom and John Law and their friend Jack Simmons. Many creative individuals involved in the music, theater and arts scene rented rooms there, including Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground, Barry McGuire, Severn Darden, and many more came to visit. The music scene was very active at that time and Lisa aimed her camera at everything that turned her on. This is when she photographed Tim Hardin, Otis Redding, the Lovin' Spoonful, the Byrds, and the Dillards, to name a few.

They didn't stay long at the castle and in late '66, after a brief move to Yelapa, Mexico and a trip to Oaxaca, Lisa and Tom returned to Los Angeles. Attracted to the counter-cultural lifestyle, the Laws moved to Forest Knolls in Marin. From there they became part of the Haight-Ashbury scene and the psychedelic revolution in San Francisco. Law combined her love of photography with her passion for social justice and used her camera to document her activism. She photographed anti-Vietnam War marches, the Human Be-In, the birth of Oracle Magazine, the Fantasy Fair and Monterey Pop, two of the first musical concerts to be produced in that area. She also recorded images of the counter-culture and American social and cultural changes.

In 1967, Lisa and Tom moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. They stayed at the New Buffalo commune (Taos, NM) for a few weeks in their tipi helping to build the commune's first large structure. They returned to Santa Fe where Lisa gave birth to their first child, Pilar, at the Catholic Maternity Institute for Natural Childbirth, the main reason that the Laws had moved to New Mexico in the first place.

Law photographed life on the New Buffalo as well as New Mexico's traveling Hog Farm commune, and in June of 1969, at the Summer Solstice Celebration in Aspen Meadows, both Lisa and Tom were married and were invited with the Hog Farm to help with security at the Woodstock Music and Arts fair in Bethel, New York. Pregnant with her second child, Solar, and with Pilar on her hip, she helped the Hog farm feed over 200,000 people and keep the peace at the concert that over 400,000 people attended. While witnessing the birth of the Woodstock Generation she was also documenting the events with her Nikon F and a Super 8 camera. These images, along with many of the counter-culture movement, are in a permanent collection at the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian in Washington DC. They are also in her book, Flashing on the Sixties and her award-winning documentary of the same name.

In 1969, while on a road trip with her friends, the Law family bought a farm in Truchas where she gave birth to her second child, Solar, with Tom delivering. They lived the farm life, growing all their own food and raising goats, chickens, horses, dogs, cats, pigeons and ducks. They had two more children, Sunday Peaches and Jesse Lee Rainbow during the next 8 years.

In 1977 Lisa left Truchas to raise her children on her own in Santa Fe where she continued her activism and made a living as a photographer. Rebel Magazine hired Law to photograph the strip mining of Black Mesa, part of the Diné Nation in Arizona. Peabody Western Coal Company began strip mining operations on Black Mesa in 1968, sparking the call for removal of Navajos from their lands due to the mining, In 1974, Congress passed Public Law 93-531, the Navajo Hopi Relocation Act, a misguided attempt to divide the former Joint Use Area into partitioned Navajo and Hopi lands. The law forced the relocation of 10,000 Navajos and a hundred Hopis from their ancestral lands. Three thousand residents of Big Mountain refused to move and Law was determined to help them. She documented the Navajo and Hopi Nations’ struggle to preserve their ancestral religious sites, traditions and lands. Law headed the Santa Fe Big Mountain Defense Support Group for 12 years, dedicated to repealing the Relocation Act. In conjunction with other volunteers, she helped organize educational materials, protest marches, and lectures.

Law, with many supporters, was involved in raising money for the Big Mountain Weaving Project. The collective of Navajo women was organized in 1986 by Arlene Hamilton and Martha Bourke. Their main supporter in this venture, through Lisa Law, was John Paul DeJoria of John Paul Mitchell Systems. John Paul helped supply water to the Big Mountain area and a salary for Arlene which made it easier for her to work full time with the resistance. Long term goals of the Weaving Project were self-sufficiency of the Diné Nation through tradition, and the preservation of ceremonial life, religious freedom and sacred sites. The Weaving Project also worked to advocate for the sovereign rights of the Diné Nation in relation to the US Government, and to develop a diplomatic negotiation with Peabody Coal/Hanson Corporation.

Currently, Lisa Law lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico as well as Embudo in a solar-powered house beside her organic garden. Law continues to use her camera to document social issues such as anti war demonstrations and ending the war on drugs, immigrant rights and issues of Native American sovereignty. Many museums in the United States and Germany have collections of her photographs, and her photos and visual documents have been licensed by many to depict those days in books and visual aids. Because of the amount of material she has collected since her days in San Francisco, she is now endeavoring, with many of her friends, to build the Museum of the Sixties in Santa Fe where she plans on creating displays of all the issues and the art of those heady times.

Source: Some of the biographical information was provided by Lisa Law.


2 boxes (1 cu. ft), plus 1 oversized folder


This collection contains the papers of activist, photographer, and documentary filmmaker Lisa Law pertaining to the Santa Fe Big Mountain Defense Support Group and the Big Mountain Weaving Project.

Photographs Available Online

Lisa Law photographs related to this collection are available via New Mexico's Digital Collections

Related Material

Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Documents. Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections, University of New Mexico Libraries Sacred Lands Project Collection. Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections, University of New Mexico Libraries Robert E. Robideau Papers Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections, University of New Mexico Libraries


Finding Aid of the Lisa Law Big Mountain Weaving Project and Santa Fe Big Mountain Defense Support Group Papers, 1974-2007
Jordan Biro
© 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131