Photo Credit: William Horton Photography
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Date: June 22, 2023
Media Contact: BJ McManama, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chaco Canyon National Monument– For years, many Pueblo and Diné tribal leaders have worked together to build solidarity to protect the shared sacred landscape of Chaco Canyon from desecration by extractive industries. That hard work showed recently, when the U.S Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland declared a 20-year federal moratorium on new oil, gas and mining development, establishing a ten-mile buffer zone around Chaco Canyon prohibiting new extraction. On June 11, 2023, Secretary Haaland was on her way to Chaco Canyon to celebrate the ban when she was met with a barricade of Diné land allottees and was unable to access Chaco Canyon. The celebration was moved to the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The ban withdraws Chaco Canyon’s so-called public lands within the 10-mile buffer zone from oil, gas, and mining development– meaning new permits will be prohibited, however it does not affect current active permits. Diné land allottees can still allow oil, gas, and mining development on their allotted land. They lease their land to companies for oil and gas exploration and receive royalties in return. In a desperate attempt to protect their own interests, oil, gas, and mining companies spread misinformation by word-of-mouth, and have been used as an effective way of disseminating information in rural areas to pit tribal communities against each other. As a result, the Diné land allottees set up the barricade preventing Haaland and others from entering Chaco, however they were met with other Diné relatives in favor of the 20-year ban.
“Right from the start so much misinformation was shared about the 10 mile buffer… like royalty payments from allotments inside the buffer being given to council delegates in Window Rock and allotments being given to the Pueblos.” Samuel Sage (Diné), Diné C.A.R.E Board of Directors President. Diné C.A.R.E (Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment) is a Navajo-based non-profit organization that works with many Diné communities affected by energy and environmental issues.
Unfortunately, the Diné tribal government is also playing into these manipulative tactics withdrawing support for Chaco Canyon on April 27, 2023. The Navajo Nation Council’s Naabik’íyatí Committee approved Resolution NABIAP-11-23, opposing the moratorium. President Nygren’s decision to withdraw support does not represent the larger Diné Nation, many Diné peoples who are in support of the moratorium attended and celebrated with Secretary Haaland and Pueblo leaders and tribal members in the protection of Chaco. A group of Diné relatives in
support of the moratorium went to the barricade to promote peacemaking. They spoke with the land allottees in opposition, in the end they agreed they were there to protect the land, and the values of K’e, a Diné word for family, and community. In addition, shared responsibilities for future generations was also discussed. With so much misinformation spreading, there is a group of Diné individuals working together to take these issues to the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President to educate on the adverse realities of fracking, water contamination, water shortages, and overall cumulative impacts to human health and ecosystems.
“Tribal governments and Indigenous advocates across the country have worked to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape for decades. Secretary Haaland responded last week with a compromise. Pueblo Action Alliance has pushed for much broader protections of the Greater Chaco Landscape. The Alliance has urged the Biden administration to protect ancestral lands and address the climate emergency by phasing out fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Chairman Westerman’s allegations are a misguided attempt to deflect attention from the fossil fuel industry’s role in the climate crisis and the destruction of ancestral lands. We applaud Secretary Haaland’s leadership in protecting the Greater Chaco Landscape for future generations” Julia Bernal (Sandia Pueblo, Yuchi), Executive Director of Pueblo Action Alliance.
“This 20-year federal moratorium is a step forward in the right direction in terms of protecting sacred places like Chaco Canyon from extraction, but this doesn’t block extractive industries from descrating this place entirely. The federal government continues to greenlight fossil fuel projects, even as these wins happen. So while those 10 miles will be protected for a time, we need protection of all lands, ‘tribal’, ‘public’ or ‘private’, against extractive industries. We need it to last beyond just the shortsighted future, but for the next seven generations ahead and beyond. We need to join with our relatives on the frontlines to protect all these sacred lands, regardless of any so-called borders. In this way, I commend Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on this win. I also urge the rest of the Biden Administration to follow in her footsteps and put a stop to the metastasized fossil fuel industry. We need to end the era of fossil fuels completely.” Brenna Two Bears (Diné, Hočak, Standing Rock Lakota), IEN Keep it in the Ground Lead Coordinator.
The Indigenous Environmental Network extends our solidarity with the Pueblo and Diné grassroots communities who have always protected and will continue to protect Chaco Canyon from extractive industries.