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Opinion: President Obama helps tribes protect cultural heritage

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: barack obama, holly houghten, mescalero apache, new mexico

Holly Houghten, the Mescalero Apache Tribe of New Mexico, supports efforts by President Barack Obama to protect important cultural sites on public lands:
In 2012, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to protect tribal heritage at Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado at the behest of local tribes, small businesses, community leaders and the bipartisan congressional delegation. In March 2013, the President protected Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos, New Mexico, which was celebrated by the people of Taos Pueblo, as well as local civic, business and congressional leaders.

And this month, the president protected the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands as part of the California Coastal National Monument. Tribal chairwoman of the Manchester-Point Arena Band of Pomo Indians Eloisa Oropeza was at the White House when the President signed an executive order protecting the public lands. “It's been amazing,” she told the local media. “I keep wanting to pinch myself and ask myself, 'Is this real or am I dreaming this?'”

These new National Monuments testify to the importance of government-to-government relations and presidential action to protect our shared heritage.Yet there are many other culturally significant public lands across the country, which require equally decisive action.

For example, in New Mexico, the All Pueblo Governors Council, Apache Tribes and Yselta del Sur Pueblo have voiced support for protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks public lands in Doña Ana County in southern New Mexico.“As the people of this land we strongly believe that this region should be permanently protected to preserve valuable tribal cultural resources that originated on these territories,” said Ft. Sill Apache Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous.

The bands that make up the Mescalero Apache Tribe consider the Organ Mountains a sacred site; they were inhabited and utilized in the past and are still visited and utilized today to gather plants and minerals used for medicine and traditional practices. The uniqueness of their landscape provides grandeur to the southern New Mexico skyline and served as a landmark for migratory Native Americans such as the Apache.

Get the Story:
Holly Houghten: Protecting Tribal Heritage in Public Lands (Indian Country Today 3/26)

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