Interior Sec. Deb Haaland’s Celebration Interrupted By Navajo Protests
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s return to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park on Sunday was interrupted when Navajo landowners blocked the road in protest of Joe Biden’s recent decision to place an informal 10-mile buffer around the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Haaland was supposed to be celebrating efforts with Native American leaders to curb the pace of oil and gas development in the San Juan Basin, protecting culturally significant sites.
Navajo leaders and landowners have accused Haaland and Biden of refusing to compromise to establish a smaller buffer to protect cultural sites while keeping the tribal land and private Navajo-owned spaces viable for future development.
Although the Biden administration’s withdrawal only applies to federal land, Navajo officials believe that their interests will no longer be protected.
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“The financial and economic losses that are impacting many Navajo families as a result of the secretary’s recent land withdrawal are nothing to celebrate,” Navajo President Buu Nygren said in a statement on Thursday, “As the leaders of the Navajo Nation, we support the Navajo allottees to who oppose the withdrawal of these public lands.”
A study done by the Department of Interior shows that the withdrawal would not affect existing leases and that much of the area of interest by industry leaders already falls outside of the boundary of what is to be withdrawn.
However, Navajo landowners are frustrated that the Biden administration is not cooperating with their pleas to reach a settlement.
Industry groups agree with the Navajo landowners, and some have accused Haaland of exhibiting conflicting interests when it comes to oil and gas policies.
Similarly, a Republican-led U.S. House committee has recently announced its investigation into Haaland’s ties with an Indigenous environmental group that has been known to protect fossil fuels.
Haaland has been an avid proponent of efforts to protect Chaco and has not yet made a statement regarding Sunday’s protests.
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