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Tribal Nations Celebrate the Full New Mexico Congressional Delegations' Support for Protecting the Greater Chaco Landscape

The All Pueblo Council of Governors applaud the introduction of the Chaco Cultural Heritage Protection Act of 2019 in both the House & Senate

 

April 10, 2019



Albuquerque, New Mexico (April 9, 2019) – The All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG), a governing body composed of 20 sovereign Pueblo nations, celebrated today’s announcement that the full New Mexico Congressional delegation would be sponsoring legislation to protect the Greater Chaco region. The Chaco Cultural Heritage Protection Act of 2019 is being introduced in the 116th Congress in both the House and Senate. This legislation would withdraw approximately 145,841 acres of oil, natural gas, coal and other minerals owned by the U.S. Federal Government from the proposed Chaco Protection Zone. Tribal leaders have praised the legislation as an important step in preserving this priceless cultural landscape.

The legislation being introduced by Senator Tom Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, Congresswoman Debra Haaland, and Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small would safeguard federal lands surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park – better known as the Greater Chaco Landscape – from oil and gas development. The legislation has been developed through consultation with the Pueblos and the Navajo Nation who recently met to reaffirm their partnership and discuss the importance of the Greater Chaco region to all New Mexicans.

Today’s news follows the announcement of an Executive Order from New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia-Richard to also withdraw state minerals from oil and gas leasing surrounding the National Park. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently preparing a Resource Management Plan amendment that will shape future development in northwest New Mexico. Pueblo and Navajo leaders have consistently called on the agency to protect the region directly surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. With the support of the entire New Mexico Congressional delegation and state leadership, tribes remain hopeful the BLM will consider withdrawing lands from the area for future leasing through their administrative authority.

“For our people, the Greater Chaco landscape is considered a living cultural site. Our spiritual leaders continue to make pilgrimages to this pristine landscape where we refer to these sites as ‘the footprints of our ancestors’. Despite its sacred importance, Chaco is constantly threatened by a growing network of roads, oil pads, and derricks. But by working with our fellow tribal nations, the state of New Mexico and our federal delegation we have the chance to protect Chaco once and for all. We are thankful for the work of Senator Udall, Senator Heinrich, Congressman Lujan, Congresswoman Haaland, and Congresswoman Torres Small. Today, New Mexico sends a strong and united message that Chaco deserves to be protected.”

– E. Paul Torres, Chairman, All Pueblo Council of Governors

“For a millennia our people have maintained a strong connection to Chaco, Mesa Verde, Bears Ears and other cultural landscapes in the southwest. In the Greater Chaco region, we connect to our history, our ancestors, and to our future as Pueblo people. The collective wisdom of generations continues to be passed down in our tribal communities through a cultural process of intergenerational exchange. The wisdom and teachings of our ancestors hold that we have an inherent responsibility to maintain a connection to, and must protect these sacred spaces. We look forward to the day when these vital cultural resources are permanently protected. This legislation is a strong first step towards protecting the historic, cultural landscape so vital to the continuance of Pueblo culture.”

– Brian Vallo, Governor, Pueblo of Acoma

“The greater Chaco region is a New Mexico treasure. Many Tribes and Pueblos in Northern New Mexico can trace their ancestry and culture to Chaco, and consider these sites sacred. But even as archeologists are making exciting new discoveries about this region – and even as Tribes and the American public speak out in overwhelming support of protecting this precious landscape – Chaco is being threatened by expanding energy development, including recently proposed leasing inside this long-standing buffer zone. I am proud of my work with New Mexico’s Pueblos and the Navajo Nation to craft this bill to provide a fundamental baseline of protection for this sacred, archaeological wonder. This legislation honors New Mexico’s history and culture, recognizing that some places are just too special to lose.”

– Senator Tom Udall

“The Chaco region holds deep meaning to New Mexico’s Pueblos, whose history and traditional knowledge live on in its thousands of ancestral sites, and to the Navajo Nation, whose lands and communities surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. I’m proud to introduce legislation to protect the landscape nearest to the existing Park from federal mineral development. While we plan for any future energy development in the San Juan Basin, protecting these sites is something we should all be able to agree on. This is about listening to tribal leaders and all of the New Mexicans who are calling on us to preserve the integrity of Chaco’s irreplaceable resources. I will keep doing all I can to defend important cultural and religious sites and the sacred landscape of the greater Chaco region for future generations.”

– Senator Martin Heinrich

“This effort will preserve the greater Chaco region for generations to come. Chaco Canyon is sacred land that has been home to some of the most resilient communities in history, and it is our responsibility to protect against efforts that would destroy the legacy of the Chacoan people and other indigenous communities or harm these beautiful public lands. We must do everything possible to defend the greater Chaco area by halting future oil and gas development in the area, and I’m proud to support legislation that will further address the environmental, health, economic, and cultural needs of this region.”

– Assistant Speaker, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan

“It’s important that we protect Chaco Canyon, both because it is a sacred place that should be valued the same way we value other sacred places, but also because public lands must be protected. However, time and again this special place has been put up to be exploited by big oil companies. By introducing these protections we’re going beyond protecting a beautiful piece of New Mexico, we’re recognizing the significance Chaco holds for the Native American community and to all New Mexicans. By keeping Chaco from being destroyed by the fossil fuel industry, future generations will have access to this special place,”

– Congresswoman Deb Haaland, the Chair of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

“I am proud to introduce the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act along with the rest of the New Mexico delegation. It is the result of years of hard work and collaboration between New Mexico’s Congressional delegation, tribal leadership, and other stakeholders that will ensure Chaco Canyon and its sacred lands are protected for generations to come. Moving forward, it is critical that we continue to work together with tribal communities to honor our trust responsibility and protect sacred, ancestral lands like Chaco Canyon.”

– Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small

 

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