Oil

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 two historic meetings 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 Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2018, 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.

High Country News Classifieds
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR AND BOOKKEEPER
    Posted: July 19, 2021 Application deadline: August 27 or until position is filled. Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking a fulltime Office Administrator...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Posted: July 15, 2021 Application deadline: August 21, 2021 or until position is filled Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking three full time...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT EDITOR
    High Country News (HCN) seeks an audience editor to attract and acquire new audiences and deepen engagement with them - in our newsletters, on our...
  • COMMUNITY MARKETER
    High Country News (HCN) is looking for a Community Marketer to build and strengthen relationships between HCN and other organizations and individuals, with the aim...
  • FINANCE & OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Job Announcement: Finance and Operations Manager Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement: Development Director Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August 9, 2021...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • HECHO NEW MEXICO SENIOR FIELD COORDINATOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. This position is part of our...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is dedicated to saving the lands and waters on which all life depends. For more than 30 years, TNC has...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, CLIMATE AND ENERGY PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-climate-energy-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Climate and Energy Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Climate and Energy Program Director Location: Helena, Montana; other...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, WILDLANDS AND WILDLIFE PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-wildlands-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Director Location: Portland or Eugene,...
  • DISCOUNT SOLAR PANELS
    New w/25 year warranty. Shipped anywhere in the lower 48. Minimum order of 10 units. Call, text or email for current prices. .50-.80/ watt
  • SWEET MOUNTAIN HOME
    3.8 acres in pine and fir forest on a year round creek. Custom home, 2x6 framing, radiant heat, wrap around decks and established berry patch....
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!