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Navajo Nation Washington Office

Tuesday 25, October 2011

Contact: Jared King
Navajo Nation Washington Office
Tel (202) 682-7390
Cell (202) 421-9207

For Immediate Release

Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Acoma, Pueblo of Tesuque and New Mexico Preservation Partners Receive Prestigious National Preservation Award

Grassroots Preservation Advocacy Saves Sites Such As Mount Taylor

Buffalo, NY – Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, Acoma Governor Randall Vicente, Tesuque Governor Mark Mitchell, and former New Mexico Historic Preservation Officer Katherine Slick were recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on Oct. 20 for legislative efforts to protect Mount Taylor from harmful development.

“We are humbled to receive this on behalf of the Navajo Nation and our partners,” said Navajo President Shelly. “I also stand here today unified with all tribes. As Native people, protection of our sacred places is key to preserving who we are at our very core.”

The John H. Chafee Trustees Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Policy was one of 23 awards presented by the National Trust for Historic Preservation during its 2011 National Preservation Conference in Buffalo.

“Recognition by the National Trust for Historic Preservation of our collective efforts to protect and defend New Mexico's Cultural Properties Act is empowering,” said Acoma Governor Vicente. “We hope to inspire others to stand with us to protect cultural and natural resources so important to our state and Tribal communities.”

During the New Mexico Legislative Session in Jan. 2011, the uranium mining industry and its proponents attempted to repeal New Mexico’s 42-year-old Cultural Properties Act, one of the strongest such laws in the nation, to gain uranium mining rights to Mount Taylor, a sacred mountain to the Navajo people and several area tribes, including the Hopi Tribe and Pueblos of Zuni, Laguna, Tesuque, and Acoma.

“Before the legislative session, several tribes, volunteers, and organizations, including the Pueblos of Acoma, Tesuque, and Laguna, and the Navajo Nation, formed a coalition known as Defenders of New Mexico Heritage to mount a plan and strategy to keep the existing law intact,” said President Shelly. “Through collaboration and partnerships, tribes were able to fend off attempts that would harm our sacred mountain, Tso Dzil, Mount Taylor.”

In 2009, the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee designated Mount Taylor as a Traditional Cultural Property (TCP), which provides a layer of protection by requiring adverse development within the TCP be reviewed by the New Mexico Historic Preservation Office.

“While each is unique, this year’s outstanding award winners all reflect the importance of protecting what is special and irreplaceable,” stated Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in a press release announcing the award. “Without the leadership and around-the-clock dedication of the Defenders of New Mexico Heritage, Mount Taylor and all of New Mexico’s cultural resources would be endangered by a weakened Cultural Properties Act.

Nominees are selected according to outstanding achievement in historic preservation public policy at the federal, state, or local level including broad and effective advocacy for the value of historic preservation to elected officials and government agencies.

“The success of these efforts required careful planning and dedication from all stakeholders, including the Pueblos and Tribes,” said President Shelly. “Several individuals should be commended, including Acoma Historic Preservation Office Director Theresa Pasqual, Navajo Historic Preservation staff Tony Joe, Kelly Francis, and Tim Begay, former Navajo Historic Preservation Department staff Steven Begay, Pueblo of Laguna member June Lorenzo, Acoma Lobbyist Conroy Chino, Attorneys for Acoma Peter Chestnut and Ann Rodgers, and Navajo Nation Lobbyist Patti Williams.”

The award presented is named in honor of John H. Chafee former governor of Rhode Island, Secretary of the Navy, a former U.S. Senator and a dedicated champion of preservation who contributed significantly to advancing public policy on preservation issues.


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