You are on page 1of 4

Press Release

For Immediate Release: October 20, 2017.

Contact: Keegan King 505-552-2090

National Congress of American Indians Approves Historic Resolution to Halt New

Oil and Gas Development in New Mexicos Chaco Canyon Region
NCAI sends a strong message to federal government on energy development
and its impact on tribes and cultural sites.

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

voted Friday to approve a resolution calling for a moratorium on oil and gas
drilling in the San Juan Basin in northwest New Mexico. The San Juan Basin
includes the world-renowned Chaco Canyon National Park and its associated
sacred sites spread across tribal land and public land managed by the Bureau
of Land Management (BLM).

NCAI resolution MKE-17-008 is a direct response to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinkes

call to approve new drilling permits and hold more lease auctions on public
land near Chaco Canyon National Park. On July 6, 2017, Secretary Zinke signed
an order for the Interior Department to approve applications for permit to drill
(APDs) and to hold new oil and gas lease sales in several jurisdictions. More
than 90% of public lands in the region are already leased for oil and gas drilling
with very little sacred land remaining unfettered from drill pads, pipelines, and
industrial access roads.

The Bureau of Land Managements (BLM) Farmington Field office is currently

preparing a Resource Management Plan (RMP) amendment that will shape
future development in northwest New Mexico. Tribes throughout the Four
Corners area are very vocal about the need to respect the RMP amendment
process. Collectively, they propose a moratorium on new drilling until the BLM
plan is complete.

Todays NCAI resolution outlines continued support for protection of Chaco

Canyon National Park, as well as sites on public land that lie outside the
monument boundary. This tribal action opposes the Interior Departments
directive to issue new leases and permits in the Greater Chaco region. Recently,
two permit applications threatened and encroached the 10-mile buffer zone
that protects the Park, including areas along the Great North Road.

In a joint statement issued September 6, 2017 from Senator Tom Udall (NM),
Senator Martin Heinrich (NM) and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (NM CD- 3), the
lawmakers called on Secretary Zinke to defer all leases on land near Chaco
Canyon until the RMP amendment process concludes.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG), a body of 19 Pueblo nations, also
met in September and issued a similar moratorium on any new drilling or
auctions in the San Juan Basin. The APCGs actions are in response to the
proposed lease auction scheduled for March 2018.


President Theodore Roosevelt created the Chaco Culture National Historical

Park in 1907 to ensure many of the regions most significant and awe-inspiring
ancient ruins were protected for generations to come. Many archaeological
and cultural sites are protected within the monument, but there are thousands
more that lie outside the parks boundary. These sites are currently under threat
as BLM begins to ramp up oil and gas production in the San Juan Basin.

The Greater Chaco region was historically the center of Puebloan culture and
economic life. Over many generations, Pueblo people built great houses,
astronomical observation sites and ceremonial kivas throughout the Four
Corners region. These sites continue to be places of prayer, pilgrimage and a
living connection for native people of the southwest to their ancestors.

There are currently 16,000 oil and gas wells that pepper the Greater Chaco
landscape, as do more than 15,000 miles of industrial access roads. Despite the
fact that the BLM has already leased 90 percent of the area to oil and gas
drilling, there is a new directive to lease the remaining land and to approve
drilling applications.

I believe that the federal government has the responsibility to talk to tribes to understand what
significance a site may have for the cultural identify of that tribe. Its important we have federal
laws that are followed concerning the protection of sacred objects and sacred sites that tribes
hold dearly. The federal government needs to talk to the tribes and consult with them and get
their permission to drill. -NCAI President Jefferson Keel, Lt. Governor Chickasaw Nation,
video excerpt

As descendants of the people of Chaco Canyon, we call on Secretary Zinke and the entire
federal government to protect these lands. Leasing new areas and approving more permits to
drill is a violation of the agreement to engage in the Resource Management Plan process with
the BLM and Bureau of Indian Affairs. We stand ready as sovereign nations to work with the
federal government but that partnership relies on trust and a commitment to meaningful
dialogue. Governor Michael Chavarria, Santa Clara Pueblo

This site is as significant for our Pueblo as is Jerusalem to the Jewish people, Muslims, and
Christians. Chaco Canyon is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and is also
designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its 10,000 year plus legacy of
indigenous history. -Governor Virgil Siow, Laguna Pueblo

The National Congress of American Indians, the All Pueblo Council of Governors and tribes
across the U.S. stand united in support of protecting our sacred sites in the Greater Chaco
region. The assault on our traditional cultural properties and our public lands must come to an
end. Secretary Zinke we call on you to re-engage with our tribal nations in a constructive
dialogue that protects our ancestral home. -Governor Mark Mitchell, Tesuque Pueblo

We need to safeguard our sacred land. Chaco Canyon area is partly the root of our ancestors
and so we hold that area very sacred. Who would want a church to be torn down? Its almost
like that. People wouldnt want to see that. -Head Councilman Joe Garcia, Ohkay Owingeh
Pueblo, video excerpt

The Greater Chaco basin is a treasure to New Mexico. We cannot afford to desecrate it in any
way. Lets keep it pristine for generations to come. Its our home. -Debra Haaland, Laguna
Pueblo tribal member
The facts:

NCAI Resolution MKE-17-008 can be found here:
President Teddy Roosevelt designed Chaco Canyon Historic Park in 1907
under the Antiquities Act of 1906.
Chaco Canyon was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
The Chaco Canyon National Monument and the entire San Juan basin
consist of thousands of sacred sites considered holy to descendent tribes
throughout the southwest.
There are over 16,000 well pads throughout the region and over 15,000
miles of industrial access roads that impact sites throughout the Greater
Chaco landscape.
The Resource Management Plan Amendment has taken community input
and will be used to determine future oil and gas development in the San
Juan basin.
On July 6, 2017, Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order for the Interior
Department to fast-track applications for permit to drill (APDs) and to
hold lease auctions throughout the country. BLM Farmington Field Office
responded by scheduling a lease auction of parcels in the San Juan basin
scheduled for March of 2018.
The All Pueblo Council of Governors, a body of 19 Pueblo nations, met in
September and called for a similar moratorium on new drilling in the San
Juan basin in response to the proposed lease auction in March 2018.
Senator Tom Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich and Congressman Ben Ray
Lujan issued a joint statement to the Department of the Interior on
September 6, 2017 requesting that the proposed lease auction be
deferred until a Resource Management Plan Amendment concludes.
NCAI is a 73-year-old institution founded in 1944 to represent tribes from
across the country. It currently represents and advocates for more than
250 tribal nations.