‘We had stuff to say’ — Allottees say their voices not heard in Chaco Canyon debate

CHACO CANYON, N.M.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero

Clouds move across the sky and over the Chaco Canyon National Monument on Saturday, April 13, 2019.

Delora Hesase and a dozen other Nageezi and local community members believe they are being left out of the conversation when it comes to the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act.

On Sunday, U.S. representatives Ben Ray Lujan and Deb Haaland (both D-N.M.) joined President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer, Council delegates Daniel Tso, Mark Freeland and Eugenia Charles-Newton and other leaders at Chaco Canyon to hear from environmentalists and Tso.

They spoke of need for the bill, which is sponsored by U.S. senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich (both D-N.M.).

The group also toured Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

The bill looks to withdraw the federal lands around Chaco Canyon from further mineral development by creating a 10-mile buffer zone around the ancestral Puebloan ruins preserved in the park.

Also New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said she will sign an executive order to place a moratorium on all new oil and gas mineral leases on state trust land in the Chaco area.

But the oil and gas leases provide needed income for many Navajo families who have allotments near Chaco, and they feel they are not being considered.

“Are we so wrong for wanting oil and gas production?” asked Hesase, who is a member of the Nageezi and Lybrook Shi-Shi-Keyah Association. “Where is our president at? We haven’t even met with him and he’s agreeing with them. We don’t need a zone.”


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About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council, Business, Fort Defiance Agency, New Mexico State politics and Art/fashion. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at abecenti@navajotimes.com.