Preserving and protecting Chaco Canyon

May 12, 2019

Brian D. Vallo, governor for the Pueblo of Acoma and a member of the All Pueblo Council of Governors, wrote recently in your pages of the urgent and important need to protect Chaco Canyon (“We must protect Chaco Canyon and its landscape,” Commentary, March 27), which is and has been for many centuries the “heart of Pueblo culture,” a place that holds “living sites because the spirits are still there.”

For 30 years, the Chamiza Foundation has enacted its commitment to support the continuation of Pueblo culture. Our very purpose is to make sure that the culture of Pueblo communities abides and thrives now and for generations to come. We do so in part through ongoing collaboration and long-term relationships with Pueblo communities.

In that spirit, Chamiza supports unreservedly and fervently legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Reps. Deb Haaland and Ben Ray Luján that would withdraw federal lands around Chaco Canyon from further mineral development by the federal government by creating a 10-mile buffer zone. As Vallo notes, such support “is not about opposing oil and gas development. This is about developing resources responsibly while protecting other treasures too precious to lose.” Chaco Canyon is a sacred site, and the proposed buffer zone along with other protections are only what we know to be proper for that place.

We urge all New Mexicans to support the proposed legislation and aligned efforts of State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, the Navajo Nation, the All Pueblo Council of Governors, the National Congress of American Indians and many others in order to preserve and protect Chaco Canyon.

Marjorie Phillips Elliott is the chairwoman of the Chamiza Foundation in Santa Fe.