FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2023
(Albuquerque, N.M.) – Nestled in the San Juan Basin of Northwest New Mexico lies the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, one of 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in America. The Park and the wider sacred landscape in which it sits—called the Greater Chaco Region—hold immense cultural significance for numerous Tribes, Pueblos, and Nations, and they are important to the archeological and scientific community, as well. However, decades of mineral leasing and development have woven disruption throughout the Greater Chaco Region and encroached on the Park, causing irreversible damage to this cherished and irreplaceable cultural landscape.
The All Pueblo Council of Governors has taken action to protect the Greater Chaco Region through a two-part approach: 1) advocating for the withdrawal of federal lands from future mineral development within an especially critical 10-mile withdrawal area surrounding the Park and including its outliers; and 2) seeking tribally-led cultural resource studies to inform and precede any other development decisions in the Greater Chaco Region, including oil and gas leasing.
Today, Senator Lujan and Congresswoman Leger Fernandez of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation reintroduced the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, with support from Senator Heinrich, Congresswoman Stansbury, and Congressman Vasquez. The bill both protects the existing development rights of Tribes and tribal allottees while permanently withdrawing federal lands within the crucial 10-mile withdrawal area from future mineral development. We applaud our Delegation for understanding the cultural importance of protecting sacred landscapes and for working tirelessly to permanently prevent further harm on federal lands in the Greater Chaco Region.
“Chaco Canyon and the Greater Chaco Region are integral to Pueblo history and culture, representing our ancestral footprint and the foundation of the core values that our communities strive to uphold. We recognize that other Tribes in the Southwest also regard Chaco as important to their traditional knowledge systems. The reintroduction of the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act serves as a means to safeguard our Indigenous histories and reaffirm our enduring connections permanently. We extend our gratitude to bill champions Senator Lujan and Congresswoman Leger Fernandez, as well as cosponsors Senator Heinrich, Congresswoman Stansbury, and Congressman Vasquez, for reintroducing this important legislation. The Pueblos eagerly anticipate joining you as the legislation progresses through Congress and ultimately becomes law.” – Mark Mitchell, Chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors and Former Governor of Tesuque Pueblo
“The sacred landscape within the Greater Chaco Region carries the footsteps and lifeways of our ancestors. When development damages this interconnected landscape, the harm can never be undone. Senator Lujan and Congresswoman Leger Fernandez, with the support of Senator Heinrich, Congresswoman Stansbury, and Congressman Vasquez, have reintroduced legislation that would permanently protect some of the most critical areas of the Greater Chaco Region. We celebrate their steadfast dedication to preservation of sacred landscapes and tribal cultural heritage.” Governor J. Michael Chavarria, Santa Clara Pueblo
“The reintroduction of the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act by Senator Lujan and Congresswoman Leger Fernandez with the support of others within the New Mexico Congressional Delegation signifies a profound recognition of the deep-rooted connections between Acoma, other Pueblos, other Tribes, and Chaco Canyon. This legislation is a crucial step in honoring our ancestors, preserving our cultural heritage, and ensuring the permanent protection of a sacred landscape that has been central to our collective identity for generations. As Governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, I am grateful for this collaborative effort, and I stand with my fellow Pueblos in unwavering support of the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act.” – Governor Randall Vicente, Pueblo of Acoma