Saturday, May 13, 2017

'This is our land': New Mexico's tribal groups gear up to fight for their home

As interior secretary Ryan Zinke arrived in Bears Ears national monument in southeastern Utah earlier this week to calm fears over proposals to reduce or redesignate 27 national monuments across 11 states, Taos Pueblo warchief Curtis Sandoval issued a stern warning: “If they allow drilling in the canyons, they’ll set off the volcanoes.” Sandoval was referring to the volcanic cones that lie in the steep canyons within the Rio Grande del Norte national monument, a spectacular northern New Mexico site that stretches across 242,500 acres from Taos Pueblo reservation land to beyond the Colorado line. But his warning may be more metaphorical than literal. The region, with its long history of land and water disputes, is gearing up for another battle between conservatives who fear the federal government will push ranchers and businesses off the land, and environmentalists who suspect a giveaway to corporate interests. There is broad agreement among the tribal councils representing the reservations and pueblos in the Rio Grande valley, among them Zuni, Navajo, Santo Domingo and Mescalero Apache, that the Del Norte and Organ Mountain monument designations must be maintained. To do otherwise would be to gut a rare advance in trust and co-operation. “The government still owes the tribal peoples,” Sandoval said. “They have responsibilities they haven’t fulfilled. No matter what they say, it’s our responsibility to protect Del Norte and we have to tell President Trump he has a responsibility to protect it too.”...more

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