Tribal Leaders travel to D.C. Protect Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon National Historical Park

Published September 23, 2018

Trip comes as BLM prepares to release plan that could alter cultural landscape

WASHINGTON — A delegation of Pueblo Tribal Leaders will travel to Washington, D.C. next week to urge the Trump administration and Congress to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape in northern New Mexico. While in D.C., the representatives will meet with agency and congressional staff and are available for media interviews.

The timing for the Washington trip comes at a critical time for the Chaco region. More than 90 percent of public lands in the area are already leased for oil and gas drilling. While parts of the historic Chaco landscape are already protected as a park, the Greater Chaco landscape around the park – home to thousands of artifacts, ancient houses and roads – is at risk of being damaged by new drill pads, pipelines, and a web of industrial access roads.

New technologies in accessing oil and gas reserves have led to increased development interest in the Greater Chaco landscape. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) are revising a land-use plan for the region that will decide whether the core area around the park, defined roughly by a 10-mile radius, will be open to drilling.

“It is imperative that the current administration and Members of Congress understand what is at stake, should the United States government develop the Greater Chaco Landscape,” said Pueblo Acoma Governor Kurt Riley about why he is traveling to Washington. “Pieces of our history, our culture, and our future will be forever lost.”

 

The trip follows a second historic meeting between the Navajo Nation and Pueblo governors in New Mexico that occurred in April 2018. The tribes –which have not collaborated together historically – recognized that the threat to their shared ancestral homeland was so great that they came together to discuss how tribal nations in the Southwest can protect sacred sites and traditional cultural properties within the Greater Chaco Region. The first meeting between the tribes occurred in February 2017, and signified the importance of working together to protect historic and cultural sites in the San Juan Basin.

 “Chaco Canyon is, and always will be, a part of who we are. It is where our ancestors lived and where they continue to reside and it should forever be preserved for future generations,” added All Pueblo Council of Governors Chairman Edward Paul Torres, who was at the April meeting.

“As descendants of the people of Chaco Canyon, we are taking time away from our families and work to travel to Washington to call on Secretary Zinke and the entire federal government to protect these lands,” said Pueblo of Santa Clara Governor, Michael Chavarria. “We stand ready as sovereign nations to work with this administration.”

Legislation has been introduced which would safeguard some of the lands within the core area outside of the park. The bill, the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2018, is supported by the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the Navajo Nation.

I want decision makers in D.C. to know that just as the United States takes great care to preserve churches, I would hope they would do the same for our sacred places,” added former Pueblo of Tesuque Governor and current Chair of the APCG’s Natural Resources Committee, Mark Mitchell.

Greater Chaco is recognized as one of the United States’ 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as it was the center of Puebloan cultural and economic life during the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. The area holds thousands of artifacts and archaeological sites—many of which have yet to be identified and studied. Many tribes throughout the Four Corners area are the direct descendants of the Chacoan people and consider the region their traditional homelands.

Pueblo of Tesuque Governor Frederick Vigil said, “The Greater Chaco Landscape is as meaningful for the Pueblo people as is Jerusalem to the Jewish people, Muslims, and Christians. Chaco Canyon enjoys numerous historical and cultural designations and recognitions because of its multi-century legacy of indigenous history.”

 

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