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‘Go home’, Haaland’s return home derailed by protest near Chaco Canyon

‘Go home’, Haaland’s return home derailed by protest near Chaco Canyon


As the Interior secretary returned to Chaco Canyon to celebrate today, canyon community members said “dooda” and “go home” to everyone.

Native and non-Natives drove down the dirt road to Chaco Canyon to celebrate Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s withdrawal of public land from oil and mining that was to take place at 10 a.m.

But canyon residents used themselves and their vehicles not to allow anyone through because the celebration was a slap in the face to Diné residents, according to Nageezi Chapter President Ervin Chavez.

Chavez said the Navajo Police Department tried to tell the residents the dirt road the residents barricaded was public land. He said it’s allotted land and belongs to Pauline Atencio.

Atencio has been told for countless years that she can’t live where she was born, right on the edge of Chaco Canyon.

Chaco Canyon became a national park in an act by Congress in 1980. Atencio’s traditional homelands and family predate the creation of the park.

Alongside Atencio stood her niece, nephews, and those who would inherit the land after she left.

Chavez thanked Atencio for standing her ground when non-Navajos tried trespassing onto her land.

Voices of allottees, difficult position

Chavez said there could be a gymnasium full of allotment holders who could voice that they’re against the withdrawal, and there could be one person who is for it, and Haaland will blast that as the main picture.

According to Chavez, that one person is a group of Navajo people who are scouts who agreed with Haaland and are trying to sway the rest of the Navajo people to agree with Haaland.

The residents began setting up their barricades at 7 a.m., three hours before the celebration Haaland was supposed to have.

Everyone was told to leave, including non-Natives who had camped inside the canyon a day before and Native people already there for the celebration.

As cars and vans drove out, residents told the tourists to go home and stay there.

Navajo Times | Kianna Joe
Pauline Atencio, resident and allottee owner, (left) talks in Navajo with Diné who are in solidarity with the Pueblo people about her concerns that she has with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s mineral withdrawal and why she doesn’t want anyone to trespass to Chaco Canyon on Sunday, June 11.

A resident, Cheyenne Antonio, believes she was caught in the middle.

On one side, she has a family upset with Haaland’s decision; on the other, she said she hears and sees the Pueblo community, which stands up for a sacred site it has used.

One San Ildefonso Pueblo member, Jennifer Marley, said there was a lot of confusion, and she did not expect the barricade to happen.

Marley said she drove in and saw a sign reading Pueblos and Haaland not welcome. She did not expect that narrative to be pushed.

Protecting land

Among the confusion, Marley said the allotment holders had been misinformed about their lands. The withdrawal is only for public land and will not affect the allottees to lease their land.

Marley said just as the residents are against the government, she is too, and they’re all there to protect the land.

Antonio said she blames President Buu Nygren for the blockade because she believes he got the community riled up to protect its land. Nygren was nowhere in sight to talk with the community members and the Pueblos that did show up.

The residents confronted a handful of Diné standing in solidarity with the Pueblo community, and it was decided that everyone agreed they were there to protect the land.

Residents talked to the Diné in solidarity with the Pueblo community in Navajo. K’é was established, and both sides were able to voice their concerns and come to an agreement on certain topics.

The residents remained at the canyon’s entrance, turning away tourists, and were happy that the celebration was no longer taking place there.

The celebration event was moved to the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Albuquerque, on Indian School Road, across from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

Navajo Times was told it was not allowed to attend the celebration event, telling its reporter to “get out” and to “leave the premises.”

Read more in the June 15 edition of the Navajo Times.

About The Author

Kianna Joe

Kianna Joe is Bit’ahnii and born for Kinyaa’áanii. She was born in Gallup. She received first place for best editorial in the student division for the 2022 National Media Awards. She is now an intern for the Navajo Times, covering matters in the Phoenix Valley while attending school at Arizona State University.


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