We traveled 2,000 miles to save Chaco Canyon

Pueblo historic sites face oil and gas development on unprotected public lands.

 

This past week, we spent time away from our families, jobs and communities to meet with decision-makers in Washington, D.C. regarding a place of sacred importance to many tribal nations: the greater Chaco landscape of northwest New Mexico. We journeyed over 2,000 miles because pieces of our history, culture and future are being threatened by intensive fossil fuel energy development that is spreading across our ancient homelands.

The greater Chaco landscape is one of the richest cultural landscapes in the United States. It is the ancestral home of our Pueblo people. The Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Bears Ears regions of the Four Corners are what we call the “footprints of our ancestors” as we trace our ancient migration. They record the long-living history of Pueblo people in the southwest United States.

Chaco Canyon has been home to the Pueblo people for thousands of years.

Currently, only a small area of our ancestral homeland is protected as the Chaco Canyon National and Historic Park. Most of the publicly-managed lands in the region are unprotected and exposed to industrial development. Sadly, more than 90 percent of public land in the area is already leased for oil and gas drilling. The remaining land — 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.

We, the direct descendants of the ancestral Chacoan people hold various leadership roles in our respective communities and represent thousands of Pueblo people. The integrity and health of our land is of paramount importance to us. During our Washington trip, we shared our stories with the current administration and Congress. And we have called on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the entire federal government to protect what little remains of this landscape. 

Our trip follows  over the past two years between the Navajo Nation and Pueblo governors in New Mexico. Tribes throughout the southwest recognized that the threat to this sacred and important landscape was so great that we joined together in our efforts to save our sacred sites.

Our trip also comes as the Bureau of Land Management prepares to release a plan that could alter our cultural landscape forever. The BLM and Bureau of Indian Affairs 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. New technologies in accessing oil and gas reserves have led to increased development interest in the greater Chaco landscape. It is imperative that the current administration and members of Congress understand what is at stake should the United States government continue to develop in the region.

Thankfully, legislation has been introduced that would safeguard some of the lands within the core area outside of the park. The bill, the, is supported by the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the Navajo Nation.

Whether it is through the BLM and BIA management plan, the proposed federal legislation, or both, we want decision makers in D.C. to know that just as the United States takes great care to preserve churches, we would hope they would do the same for our sacred places. 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 be preserved for future generations.

From left, Former Pueblo of Tesuque Governor Mark Mitchell, All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG) Chairman Edward Paul Torres, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, APCG Vice-Chairman and Pueblo of Santa Clara Governor J. Michael Chavarria, and Pueblo of Acoma Governor Kurt Riley are pictured at a meeting with the New Mexico senator.
Courtesy photo

Submitted by the All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG) Chairman Edward Paul Torres, APCG Vice-Chairman and Pueblo of Santa Clara Governor J. Michael Chavarria, Pueblo of Acoma Governor Kurt Riley, and former Pueblo of Tesuque Governor Mark Mitchell who share the responsibility of Co-Chairs for the APCG Natural Resources Committee.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • We are hiring a Wyoming Conservation Associate Full time, competitive pay and benefits. Location: Cody, WY (preferred), Jackson, WY, or Lander, WY Visit www.greateryellowstone.org/careers for...
  • The National Parks Conservation Association, the nations leading national park advocacy organization, seeks a Regional Director to lead and manage staff for the Southwest Regional...
  • This newly created position with The Nature Conservancy's Colorado River Program will play a key role in the development and implementation of strategies to achieve...
  • The Foundation NoVo Foundation acts from the original meaning of philanthropy: the love of humanity. The Foundation is dedicated to catalyzing a global social transformation...
  • A new generation of monkey wrenchers hits the Front Range?
  • The Tanner Humanities Center and the Environmental Humanities Program of the University of Utah seek an environmental writer to offer classes in Utahs Environmental Humanities...
  • The Wilderness Society works to protect Wildlands and inspire Americans to care for our public lands. We seek to hire a strategic, experienced leader who...
  • The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) seeks an individual to lead this 45-year-old organization as executive director, to carry on ICLs work as Idahos leading voice...
  • 2+ acres, 400+ feet on Snake River, 2800 sf residence, NWF-certified wildlife habitat, excellent hunting, fishing, birdwatching, stargazing, sunsets & panoramic views. In the heart...
  • Guardians is expanding and looking for a few great people to join us in protecting and restoring the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health...
  • Organic grocery/cafe at Glacier Bay needs a vibrant leader. Love good food, community, and Alaska? Join us!
  • Ouray County, Colorado, a popular tourist destination, has dramatic mountains and amazing winter ice climbing. Challenging terrain and high altitude can push visitors to their...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Associate-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Coordinator-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Manager-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Associate-Southern CA. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • Collector's Item! The story of barley, the field crop. 50 years of non-fiction research. www.barleybook.com
  • Are you a climber and a writer who is passionate about mountain literature? Do you love searching through old alpine journals for stories of esoteric...
  • Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a growing nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...