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in the US, a land grant system started in 1503 which gave certain Spaniards an estate or tract of land in America as well as the Native American inhabitants of that land; also, this tract of land and its inhabitants
Encomienda provided for Indian tribute in exchange for protection and Christian instruction.
1810, from Spanish, "commission," from encomendar "to commit, charge." Estate granted to a Spaniard in America with powers to tax the Indians.