Biden blocks oil, gas drilling near Native American cultural site in New Mexico

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President Biden on Monday proposed a new 20-year federal oil and gas lease ban on land near Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, a site considered sacred and ancestral to members of the Pueblo and other Native American tribes.

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why it matters: For years, tribes have requested a drilling moratorium for the land around the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and preserves one of the most important pre-Columbian cultural and historical areas in the Americas

  • The move comes after activists criticized the Biden administration for not acting more aggressively to reverse the rollback of protections for national monuments that occurred during the Trump administration.

big picture: Biden unveiled the leasing ban at the start of the White House Tribal Nations Summit – a two-day event in which leaders of more than 570 tribes are expected to attend.

  • The ban instructs the Bureau of Land Management to begin a 20-year return of federal land within a 10-mile radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
  • The land within the park, which is located in the high desert of northwestern New Mexico, served as the center of the Chacón culture for nearly 400 years.
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What are they saying: “Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep meaning to the indigenous people whose ancestors lived, worked, and thrived in that high desert community,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary, said in a statement,

  • “Now is the time to consider more sustainable protection for the Chaco living landscape, so that we can pass on this rich cultural heritage to future generations,” Haaland said.
  • Haaland, a former representative from New Mexico, is a member of the Laguna Pueblo.

“It’s an honor to use this effort, a word my dad used so much,” Biden said during an announcement on Monday. “It is the foundation of our nation-to-nation partnership.”

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of note: This year’s summit is the first time since 2016 that the White House hosted the event.

go in: Native American population jumps to largest size in modern history

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