The Arty Semite

Jewish Immigrant Who Became Acoma Governor

By Renee Ghert-Zand

There were many 19th-century Jewish immigrants to the United States who made their way to the Wild West to seek their fortunes. But only one, Solomon Bibo, became the governor of a Native American tribe. The Indians called him Don Solomono; for filmmaker Paul Ratner, he is “Moses on the Mesa.”

Paul Ratner

Ratner, a 35-year-old recipient of a Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, discovered this obscure piece of Jewish history while visiting his parents in Albuquerque, New Mexico and he was determined to make a film about it. “I’d heard about the story for years and had visited the Acoma Pueblo up on the mesa several times,” he told The Arty Semite. “I was surprised that nobody had researched it or talked about it more.”

Ratner, himself an immigrant to the United States (he arrived from the Former Soviet Union at age 13), was fascinated by Bibo, who set sail for New York from Bremen, Germany in October 1869. Shortly after, Bibo, only 16 at the time, continued on to Santa Fe to join his older brothers and family friends.

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