Santa Fe, N.M. — Over 200 clean air and water advocates rallied in front of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) state office in Santa Fe today to protest the December 5th and 6th online auction of over 89,000 acres of public and ancestral tribal lands, including over 44,000 acres in the Greater Chaco region, and over 40,000 near Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Tribal leaders, environmental groups, and advocates expressed growing outrage at BLM’s chronic disengagement with the public, its lack of meaningful tribal consultation, and its failure to consider the public health and environmental impacts of selling off federal and tribal lands for fracking.
“Meeting with BLM is like talking to a wall, and we have been hitting the wall for a long time.” said Samuel Sage, Community Services Coordinator for Counselor Chapter, Navajo Nation. “For the BLM, it’s all about greed, but all we want is clean air and water for our kids and grandchildren. They call us ‘activists’ when they should be calling oil and gas industry proposals ‘terrorist.’”
Despite receiving a record-breaking 10,000 protest comments, the BLM is moving forward with thecontroversial leases based on outdated Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for the Farmington, Rio Puerco, Carlsbad, and Roswell Field Offices, all of which were written before new fracking methods were feasible and without meaningful tribal consultation or consent from Navajo Nation and Pueblos who consider the Greater Chaco region sacred.
“We have fought to have our Pueblo tribal leaders at the table, to have clean air and soil for the Dine communities, and we have gone to D.C. to talk about our concerns as indigenous people. Yet, BLM continues to lie and neglect their responsibilities.” said Julia Bernal, Co-Director of Pueblo Action Alliance. “That BLM has a mandated ‘Trust Relationship’ with Tribal Nations and we must still demand to be consulted is blatant disrespect. Maybe they think we’ll leave, but we’re not going anywhere. Public lands are ancestral lands and we are the land.”
Although BLM state headquarters were shuttered today due to a federal day of mourning for former President George H. W. Bush, Greater Chaco advocates proceeded with their planned rally to remind agency officials of their promise to Tribes and the American public to develop a new plan to protect Greater Chaco.
Advocates wrote personalized messages to the BLM on a large banner that read “Not Your Sacrifice Zone: We Demand Justice”, and taped the banner to the front wall of BLM headquarters. “Sacrifice Zone” is a label that has stuck to the Four Corners region since the early 1970s, when the Nixon Administration began prioritizing energy extraction policies, at great cost to the communities, land, and water in the Southwest. With their banner, advocates refused for New Mexico to remain a national energy sacrifice zone, and demanded instead that the BLM engage in meaningful tribal and public consultation, and ensure protections for the environment and public health.
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Kurly Tlapoyawa is an archaeologist, author, and ethnohistorian. His research focuses primarily on the interaction between Mesoamerica, Western Mexico, and the American Southwest. Kurly has lectured at UNLV, University of Houston, and Yale University on topics related to Mesoamerica. His recent book, “Our Slippery Earth: Nawa Philosophy in the Modern Age” was published in 2017. In addition to his work in Archaeology and Ethnohistory, Kurly is a professional stuntman with over 35 credits to his name. Follow Kurly on twitter @KurlyTlapoyawa Enjoy this article? Become a patron and support independent, Indigenous media!