After Democratic Site Tour of Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Chair Grijalva Declares “No Compromise” on Protecting Sacred Sites From Trump Agenda

Santa Fe, N.M. – After touring Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which included hearing from tribal and elected leaders about the risks to the site from nearby oil and gas drilling, Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) vowed aggressive, continuous oversight of the Trump administration’s industry dominance agenda and its impact on sacred Native American sites around the country. 

The visit, Grijalva said, underscored the need for the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, which withdraws the federal lands around Chaco Canyon from further mineral development. The bill is sponsored in the House by Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján, Natural Resources Committee Vice Chair Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small, all Democrats of New Mexico.

While New Mexico state authorities support restricting drilling on state lands within a 10-mile radius of the park, most surrounding land is federal or tribal, and Trump officials have made aggressive efforts to open federal public lands to leasing regardless of tribal wishes across the West. The bill would legislatively create an approximately 10-mile buffer on federal lands around the park. 

Luján and Haaland were among those at the site visit alongside Grijalva and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), who chairs the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Rep. Haaland chairs the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.

“Trump and his allies want to steamroll tribal communities, pave over sacred land and pollute until there’s nothing left to save,” Grijalva said today. “We will not compromise on protecting sacred sites from their destructive agenda. Either you believe Native American sites and the health and sovereignty of Native American communities are worth protecting, or you don’t. This president and his allies clearly don’t, and this Committee will scrutinize and challenge their attacks on Indian Country at every turn.”

“I was proud to join Rep. Deb Haaland in welcoming our colleagues to New Mexico to visit our incredible public and sacred lands in the greater Chaco region,” said Assistant Speaker Luján. “Chaco Canyon has been standing for generations, and it is the ancestral homeland of so many New Mexicans. We must continue to protect these sacred lands from efforts that seek to harm or destroy them – including fracking and drilling.” 

“Chaco’s significance, history and culture is something everyone should experience, but it’s under threat by oil and gas drilling,” said Vice Chair Haaland. “Our team showed up to see the extent that emissions can harm the air and land that holds our heritage, and we toured the ancestral homelands of the Pueblo people. We’ll use this on-the-ground experience to further our efforts to ensure Chaco is here for our future generations.”

“It was exciting and humbling to tour Chaco Culture National Historical Park,” said Subcommittee Chair Lowenthal. “This sacred site continues to be significant to today’s puebloan people and is one of our nation’s most magnificent cultural treasures. It is unacceptable that such an important and fragile site is being threatened by new oil and gas leases nearby. There must be a permanent moratorium on oil and gas leases around Chaco Canyon as well as other similar sacred sites and national parks.” 

Chaco Culture National Historic Park – which is designated a United Nations (UN) World Heritage Site – is home to thousand-year-old dwellings and artifacts of the Pueblo culture. As the UN notes, among many other remarkable features, the site “has an ancient urban ceremonial center that is unlike anything constructed before or since.”

Photos of the Democratic visit to Chaco Canyon are available at http://bit.ly/2Pcvmmh. B-roll of the visit is available athttp://bit.ly/2KK1Vtk.