May 21, 2015—Over the past few months, I have continued to advocate for protection of the Greater Chaco Landscape. This has included attending a number of meetings with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other officials, conducting a tour of the Chaco Landscape with several Pueblo leaders, and engaging my fellow archaeologists on a number of issues.
In April, I led a tour to Chaco Canyon and the Great North Road. Accompanying me were representatives of Tesuque, Santa Ana, and Isleta pueblos. My focus for the tour was showing folks the wonder of the Greater Chaco Landscape and discussing the encroachment of oil-gas facilities. By the end of the trip, I think we all had a much greater appreciation for the wonder and majesty of the Greater Chaco Landscape and the great need to protect it.
We toured Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon and went up top to Pueblo Alto and New Alto. While the great houses in the Canyon proper, such Bonito and Chetro Ketl, are phenomenal, monumental structures, a full appreciation of the spectacular Chaco Landscape is best approached from above.
To gain this landscape vision, the group visited Pueblo Alto—an eleventh-century Chaco great house on the mesa above Pueblo Bonito and New Alto—an early twelfth-century great house located just west of Pueblo Alto. These sites sit in commanding positions on the mesa north of Chaco. In addition, the Great North Road begins its journey just to the east of Pueblo Alto. The road runs approximately 35 miles north to the edge of Kutz Canyon, terminating at the great house called Twin Angels Pueblo.
About 15 miles north of Alto is a Chacoan great house known as Pierre’s. The site has three structures and a number of outlying small pueblos and other smaller sites. It is the largest settlement on the Great North Road, and the positioning of two structures on mesas located 200 feet off the valley floor indicates the importance of this strategic location.
The Pierre’s great house complex is well within the area that has seen impacts from oil-gas developments over the past few decades. The site itself is protected, but it is surrounded by industrial facilities. Protection of the Chaco Landscape beyond the boundaries of Chaco Culture National Historic Park is the main focus of Archaeology Southwest’s advocacy. One option we have proposed is a master leasing plan that would guide development of oil-gas facilities over the next several years and build in protection for sensitive areas. Our efforts are ongoing and we will continue to meet with federal and tribal officials and hope to get all parties—BLM, BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs), Navajo Nation, and other groups—to the table to agree on programmatic protection for this irreplaceable landscape.
View EcoFlight’s film on protecting the Greater Chaco Landscape here.