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Guest Column | Protect our ancestors, Chaco from corporations

By Reyaun Francisco

I want to make this plain and simple: Indigenous communities have the right to protect their homelands and have the right to protect their ancestors from being desecrated by oil and gas corporations.

Reyaun Francisco

Tapestries of cultures, stories, songs, prayers and generations are woven at Chaco – it’s past time to protect them.

The Bureau of Land Management is currently in the middle of a 90-day public comment period on its proposal to protect federal lands within 10 miles of surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park from oil and gas corporations for the next 20 years.

This proposal would protect our ancestors and the remaining remnants of their existence from being destroyed forever by oil and gas corporations, and protect community members from pollutants that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses.

The Greater Chaco landscape has been home to Dinétah and many other Indigenous communities since time immemorial, but oil and gas corporations have begun to eye this same land to drill for oil and gas.

For too many years, reckless oil and gas drilling in our sacred sites has endangered irreplaceable cultural resources and the health and safety of our nearby K’e.

Both the Biden administration and Congress have not just the opportunity, but the responsibility to put the people’s health before oil and gas corporations.

Right now, it is vital for communities across New Mexico and for our K’e to be a part of the public effort to protect the history of Indigenous communities across the country – before it is too late.

As we are studying and learning more about the ancestors who continue to watch over these sacred areas, oil and gas companies are attempting to rewrite our history by disturbing the landscape and the structural integrity of these long-standing homes that once housed our grandmothers and grandfathers.

Take a moment and imagine if this was a topic of concern for the Great Pyramids of Giza, for the palaces in Europe, or for the pyramids in South America. The outrage, or better yet, the reality is that this isn’t a conversation in those places because we’ve already deemed them worthy of historical preservation. Chaco deserves the same.

As young children, we were told stories during this winter time next to the fireplace of how we as Diné were strong advocates for Nihima Nihoosdzaan. That we prioritize our relationships with our land, animals, and seasons to bring bountiful blessings to our families.

We were told stories of how m??ii tried to steer us away from protecting the plants, stars and animals, but we were able to catch him and learn from his lessons.

Oil and gas corporations are doing the same, they are lying to our communities and turning us against each other and our Pueblo family – turning us against our Diné values – for a false short-term profit that only a few Diné will see.

It is time that the federal government, oil and gas corporations, and Navajo allottees understand that Chaco allows us to reconnect with the stories, songs and prayers of our ancestors.

It’s important that future generations of Diné are able to inherit them centuries from now. We must come together to voice our concerns about oil and gas development in the Greater Chaco landscape.

I urge my fellow community members to email the Bureau of Land Management and say you strongly support the ancestral protections and you see this as a great first step towards building meaningful engagement with Pueblos, tribes and nations.

It’s time for the health and well-being of community members and preservation of cultural resources to stop taking a backseat to oil and gas industry profits – putting t’aa Diné over corporations.

Reyaun Francisco is environmental justice director at Nuestra Tierra. He is Naakai dine’é (Mexican People Clan), born for the Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House People Clan). His maternal grandfather of the Maii Deeshgizhnii (Coyote Pass People Clan). He was born and raised an environmentalist on Dinétah in Ayani Bitó, Yootó hahoodzo (Iyanbito, New Mexico).


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