Collaboration Signals Greater Tribal Involvement in Federal Land Management
PHOENIX (August 29, 2016)—During a two-year study process to examine the deep human history of 84,000 acres of federal land in Maricopa and Yuma Counties, Archaeology Southwest and study participants explored ancestral connections for 13 Native American tribes, most of whom were engaged in the development of a new ethnographic report. Today, representatives of these tribes joined Congressman Raúl Grijalva, Archaeology Southwest, and the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona to renew the call for the establishment of the Great Bend of the Gila National Monument.
The groups held a press conference today at the Inter Tribal Council office in Phoenix to share the findings of the long-awaited report and to call on Congress to protect what is considered one of the Bureau of Land Management’s most important cultural landscapes in the desert Southwest.
The study Archaeology Southwest revealed today, The Great Bend of the Gila: Contemporary Native American Connections to an Ancestral Landscape (opens as a PDF), outlines the cultural and historical ties of 13 federally recognized Native American tribes to the Great Bend of the Gila. The report’s authors, along with the participating tribes, desire for the tribes to be engaged more consistently, effectively, and respectfully in the area’s management and in the interpretation of its cultural resources.
“We are thankful for Congressman Grijalva’s legislative leadership on this issue,” said Bill Doelle, president and CEO of Archaeology Southwest. “Recognizing this special landscape, assessing the popular support for celebrating it, listening to tribal voices, and championing a bill to create a new national monument—at every step of this process, Grijalva has provided leadership.”
The initiative seeks to honor the rich cultural and historical significance of this portion of the Gila River, which served as a major trade route and travel way, as well as a centuries-old place of human settlement near present-day Gila Bend. The Great Bend of the Gila includes archaeological evidence of ancestral Hohokam and Patayan cultural traditions and several trails of national significance, including those of Juan Bautista de Anza, the Butterfield Overland Stage, and the Mormon Battalion.
Significantly, the area also encompasses numerous sites of world-class rock art, including Sears Point and Painted Rocks, as well as enigmatic arrangements of stones and patterned abrasions on the ground surface known as geoglyphs. In addition to historic routes, the landscape reveals remnants of historical homesteading, mining, and ranching—and even the site of the Civil War’s westernmost skirmish.
“Protecting these cultural, historical and natural resources is one of Congress’ most important duties,” Ranking Member Grijalva said. “These sacred landscapes shouldn’t be politicized or vandalized—they should be conserved for the benefit of the American people. This site is one of the best candidates in the country for stronger federal protection, as this study shows, and I’m going to continue working with my colleagues in Washington to make that protection a reality. A great number of people of different backgrounds have come together to protect and promote this land. We’re not going to let that work go to waste.”
In June, U.S. Rep. Grijalva introduced H.R. 5556 to preserve the area and establish the Great Bend of the Gila National Monument. U.S. Rep. Grijalva has been a longtime champion of the effort, initially introducing legislation in support of the monument in 2013.
13 tribes with ancestral connections to the area include:
- Ak-Chin Indian Community
- Cocopah Indian Tribe
- Colorado River Indian Tribes
- Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation
- Fort Mojave Indian Tribe
- Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe
- Gila River Indian Community
- Hopi Tribe
- Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
- Tohono O’odham Nation
- Yavapai-Apache Nation
- Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe
- Pueblo of Zuni
Doelle said, “The study released today invites broader public appreciation of the deep historical connections of Southwestern tribes to the cultural landscape of the Great Bend of the Gila. Out of respect for this tribal heritage and to celebrate its other nationally important resources, we call on Congress to move Mr. Grijalva’s bill to establish a Great Bend of the Gila National Monument forward for approval.”
The study, The Great Bend of the Gila: Contemporary Native American Connections to an Ancestral Landscape, was made possible in part by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
About Archaeology Southwest
Archaeology Southwest is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that explores and protects the places of our past across the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest. For three decades, Archaeology Southwest has fostered meaningful connections to the past and respectfully safeguarded its irreplaceable resources. Learn more at www.archaeologysouthwest.org.