Native activists and allies oppose energy development in the greater Chaco Canyon area at a rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on April 17, 2018. Photo: Niko Dellios

Native Sun News Today: Tribes seek no-drill zone on ancestral territory

Tribal leaders endorse Chaco no-drill zone

By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

WASHINGTON - Tribal leaders joined senators here on May 22, to celebrate the introduction of federal legislation for a no-drill zone protecting Chaco Culture National Historical Park from new fracking.

New Mexico’s Sen. Tom Udall and Sen. Martin Heinrich introduced the legislation (S.2907) to solidify a 10-mile buffer zone restricting new oil and gas extraction around the national park that administers Chaco Canyon and its ancient Pueblo architecture, unparalleled testimony to the native Southwest ancestors’ profound knowledge and technical skills.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, speaking at a news conference with the senators, said he supports the bill because, “we are connected to these lands spiritually. The voices of our ancestors live in this area and any disturbance to this area is culturally and morally insensitive.”

At the conference, All Pueblo Council of Governors Chair and Former Isleta Pueblo Gov. E. Paul Torres said, “The international community celebrates Greater Chaco as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is time for the United States to join them in this recognition.

“The cultural and historical artifacts contained here are not only important to Native American tribes, but also to all who come to learn from our past. But once this area is developed, it is gone forever,” he said.

Joining them was Zuni Pueblo Gov. Val Panteah, who said, "For our people these sacred places are an essential connection to our past, to our culture as Pueblo people and to our ancestors that still reside in this place.

“The Greater Chaco Landscape is the root of our great native American family-tree. It is where our ancestors built their monuments and observed the cosmos. In this place they spoke prayers on behalf of all people. And when we protect this place we honor their prayers and bless ourselves,” he said.

New Mexico Wild’s Executive Director Mark Allison and New Mexico’s Wilderness Society Director, Michael Casaus took part in the event. At the same time in Taos, New Mexico, native and other environmental groups released a statement backing the bill.

“Today's legislation is a helpful first step to provide some much-needed relief for the area, where it is common to see methane flares and heavy equipment when approaching the park,” said Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, the Western Environmental Law Center, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, WildEarth Guardians, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

“We look forward to working with the delegation and all stakeholders to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape and to consider action to protect not only the park, but the communities who live in the region that are already dealing with the adverse impacts of oil and gas activities,” they said in a written statement.


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