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HomeNews[Protect Sacred Places] Saving Mount Taylor

[Protect Sacred Places] Saving Mount Taylor

[Protect Sacred Places] Saving Mount Taylor

Posted by: David V. Hill

Hello Friends,

We are getting information that the uranium industry has mounted a full out battle to stop the MT Taylor Traditional Cultural Property nomination.  They have hired a professional to work within the community of Grants to drive the wedge issues.   The Grants uranium people are sending letters that have far exceeded the numbers of letters received in favor of preserving MT Taylor.

We need every person to write a letter to the Cultural Properties Review Committee and tell them how they feel about Mt Taylor and why it is important to protect it, so that the Cultural Properties Review Committee can feel strong in approving the TCP due to strong public support.

If this nomination is not successful, the nominating tribes (Navajo Nation, the Pueblos of Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and Laguna) will not be allowed to reapply again for five years.   This will mean that the mining operations can resume on the mountain with no controls or concern for native religious interests.   We cannot let this happen.  Please write your letter.  Please forward this email to anyone that you know who may be interested.

This is the address to send your letter.

State of New Mexico

Department of Cultural Affairs

Historic Preservation Division

Att: Cultural Properties Review Committee

Bataan Memorial Building,

407 Galisteo St., RM 236

Sante Fe, New Mexico 87501

The deadline for all written comments to the Cultural Properties Review Committee is May 20, 2009.

The following was sent to me by a friend who is familiar with the nomination proposal, so that you may read for yourself the important points being placed before the review committee.

Here are excerpts from the conclusion of the significance statement in the application.

In order to obtain permanent protection from the mountain, the Tribes assert that the Mt. Taylor TCP fulfills three of the four NRHP criteria:  Criterion (a) for its associations that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; Criterion (b) association with the lives of persons significant in our past, and Criterion (d) history of yielding or potential to yield, information important in prehistory and history (Benedict and Hudson 2008:30-31).

With regard to Criterion (a), the Nominating Tribes’ significance statements show that the historical, cultural, and religious importance of the Mt. Taylor TCP is firmly established in each of the community’s history and traditions.  The period of significance, according to each of the Tribes, extends from time immemorial to the present.

Mt. Taylor occupies a pivotal place in the origins of each of the Nominating Tribes, either during the emergence of the first humans onto the face of this earth and/or during the people’s migrations in search of their promised homelands.  Considered the home of many Spiritual Beings and a source of water that sustains life throughout the natural world, Mt. Taylor is important in calendrical ceremonies and daily ritual observances that motivate, organize, and structure how people live their everyday lives as members of their communities.  The Mountain is a prominent element in the communities’ respective cosmologies.            As first noted in the introduction comments of this statement and illustrated through the Tribe’s substantive contributions, the Nominating Tribes’ people literally and figuratively “Look to the Mountain” for guidance (e.g., see discussion by Cajete1994, 1999). It is through these many-tiered relationships between the communities traditional cultural beliefs and practices and the Mt. Taylor Cultural Landscape that the TCP is eligible for listing in the National Register.

The importance of the Mountain in migrations of people over time is not limited to members of the Nominating Tribes. Until the invention of the car, it assured early settlers setting out across the desert from the Rio Grande valley that they could survive the trip, it was a beacon then, as it was in pre-historic times.

Regarding Criterion (b), National Register Bulletin 38 offers relevant insight for understanding and assessing the Mountain’s significance in terms of its association with the lives of persons significant in out past:

The word “persons” can be taken to refer both to persons whose tangible, human existence in the past can be inferred on the basis of historical, ethnographic, or other research, and to “persons” such as gods and demigods who feature in the traditions of a group.  [Parker and King 2008:13]

Mt. Taylor has been the home of many different Spiritual Beings dating back to the very beginning of time.  These Beings figure prominently in the tra ditional beliefs and histories that each of the Nominating Tribes hold dear concerning their origins, either at the time of emergence and/or through their prolonged migrations in search of their pledged homelands.  Moreover, the Mountain itself is traditionally understood to be a living, breathing Spiritual Being.  Clearly, the available documentation makes obvious that Mt. Taylor TCP fulfills this criterion.

Criterion (d), with its focus on the likely potential of a traditional cultural property to yield information important in history and prehistory, occupies a somewhat lesser status relative to Criteria (a) and (b).  Nonetheless, this criterion is relevant and it underscores the Mountain’s significance as a traditional cultural property to the Nominating Tribes, collectively and individually.

The unprecedented wealth of cultural and historical information that the Nominating Tribes have shared in this nomination effort provide important perspectives and data with which to more fully understand, and respect, the cultural traditions that these communities maintain through their continuing associations with Mt. Taylor (after Benedict and Hudson 2008:31).  Continuing ethnographic study, scholarly research, and literary work can be expected to continue to enhance our collective understanding of the beliefs and practices that the Nominating Tribes associate with the Mountain.

The Nominating Tribes view the locations of many of the contributing cultural properties through which they maintain their relationships with Mt. Taylor, as well as the specific beliefs and practices that are associated with these landscape features, as privileged information.  Nonetheless, the Tribes have identified hundreds of cultural properties, including traditional plant and mineral gathering locations, boundary markers, springs, lakes, shrines, blessing places, and archaeological properties, as material evidence in support of their significance statements.   This rich assemblage of contributing cultural properties suggests that there exists the very high potential that study of these known landscape features will result in the documentation of much more quantitative information about the Tribe’s physical occupation and use of the Mountain.  Additionally, the large number of known archaeological properties (n=1056) with which at least one of the Tribes has stated its affiliation relative to the small sample of area inventoried by professional archaeologists suggests that a very great many significant contributing archaeological properties exist with this landscape awaiting rediscovery and evaluation.

Concluding Statement

The Mount Taylor Cultural Landscape is the intersection of so many different community landscapes, and the Mountain does so many different things—economically, socially, and ideationally—for so many different people from culturally diverse backgrounds.  These factors make Mt. Taylor one of New Mexico’s truly exceptional landscapes.  Although there is no consensus on what Mt. Taylor is, what the Mountain does for people, and what this landscape should become, all stakeholders intrinsically know that Mt. Taylor not only is a place to talk about (after Ortiz 1992: 321–324), but warrants an emotional response even when there exists only a perception that one community’s interests might somehow supersede another’s.  The often rancorous debate whether the Mt. Taylor TCP should be listed on the SRCP, h owever, speaks volumes of the significance of the Mountain among New Mexico’s communities.  Listing of the Mount Taylor Cultural Landscape protects the Mountain and each of the communities in turn by ensuring that no one community’s interests will automatically take precedence over the others as humans shape the future of the Mountain.

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