News|Indigenous Rights
Biden to limit new oil and gas drilling at Native American site
At a White House summit meeting, President Joe Biden is set to unveil billions of dollars in new infrastructure and social and public safety programmes for US tribes.
Indigenous environmental activists protested in front of the White House on October 11, 2021 [File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]
15 Nov 2021
President Joe Biden is set to unveil a plan on Monday to prevent new oil and gas drilling around one the largest and most valuable Native American sites in the United States.
Biden is directing the US Department of the Interior to begin a process that would prevent oil and gas drilling on federal lands within a 16km (10-mile) radius of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, according to a White House statement.
The president is scheduled to participate in a summit meeting with more than 570 tribal leaders from around the US at the White House on Monday. The Chaco Canyon oil and gas restrictions are part of a wider set of policy moves being announced at the gathering, which aims to support US Native Americans.
Oil and gas drilling policy in the US has emerged as an increasing friction point between industry, Indigenous leaders, and environmentalists as the Biden administration seeks to address climate change by limiting fossil fuel emissions while still meeting US energy needs.
Chaco Canyon was the centre of a flourishing Pueblo civilisation in the period of years 850 to 1250 AD. Quarrying sandstone and harvesting timber from long distances, the Indigenous peoples built large and architecturally complex structures.
“Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked, and thrived in that high desert community,” US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement.
Haaland, a former environmental activist from New Mexico, is the first Native American to serve as Interior Department secretary in US history.
Pueblo Bonito is the largest archeological site at the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico, where Biden is moving to limit oil and gas development [File: Cedar Attanasio/AP Photo]
Also on Monday, the White House is expected to announce the establishment of a first-ever Native American advisory council to the Interior Department secretary.
Pueblo people and tribes in Arizona and New Mexico have long raised concerns about encroaching oil and gas development around Chaco Canyon that threaten sacred and cultural sites, the White House said.
The Chaco Canyon area includes important archaeological finds that are among the most significant, intact signs of Native American culture prior to European colonisation beginning in the 1500s.
The US Congress has taken a number of steps in recent years to prevent new leasing in the area for oil and gas development.
Now the Interior Department will begin consideration of a 20-year withdrawal of lands within 16km (10 miles) of the park from new federal oil and gas leasing and development, the White House said.
Biden’s order is not a complete ban on oil and gas drilling in the area. The proposed withdrawal would not apply to individual allotments of mineral rights already owned by private, state or Tribal entities, according to the White House.
Members of the Navajo tribe, the US’s largest, had urged federal authorities not to prevent individual Navajo from gaining an important source of income from drilling in the buffer zone around the park.
“There doesn’t appear to be a scientific or environmental rationale for that 10-mile radius,” Robert McEntyre, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, told The New York Times (paywall), which first reported the news.
Environmentalists and Native American tribes are concerned about air pollution and wastewater leaks from unchecked oil and gas development in New Mexico [File: Charlie Riedel/AP Photo]
“Given the role that oil and gas plays in the economy of that area, we shouldn’t have an arbitrary number that would limit economic opportunities, perhaps the only economic opportunities, in that part of the state,” McEntyre said.
The remote 12,140-hectare (30,000-acre) Chaco Canyon park was established in the US state of New Mexico by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
Chaco Canyon is considered one of the best places in the US for stargazing because of the dark night skies free from light pollution.
Biden is announcing plans to invest billions of dollars in new infrastructure and social and public safety programmes for US tribes, including taking steps to enforce better federal recognition of historic treaty rights.
States sue to undo Biden pause on US oil and gas lease sales
The 13 Re­pub­li­can-lean­ing states seek a court or­der end­ing the mora­to­ri­um that Pres­i­dent Biden im­posed in Jan­u­ary.
24 Mar 2021
US oil out­put climbs to­ward lev­el not seen since pan­dem­ic’s start
High­er prices are buoy­ing drillers’ con­fi­dence: Bench­mark Nymex oil gained near­ly 35 per­cent in the past four months.
12 Apr 2021
From: The Stream
Is COVID-19 en­dan­ger­ing Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­ture?
Tribes say locked in a race against time to save lan­guage, cus­toms and his­to­ry.
20 Feb 2021
Re­mains of Na­tive Amer­i­can youth re­turn to trib­al home
The chil­dren had been sep­a­rat­ed from their fam­i­lies more than a cen­tu­ry ago un­der US poli­cies of forced as­sim­i­la­tion.
15 Jul 2021
Germany to provide medical help to Ukraine – but no weapons
Qatar Airways and Airbus dispute explained in 500 words
Turkish journalist arrested for insulting President Erdogan
Burkina Faso gov’t denies army takeover after barracks gunfire
Airbus cancels $6bn contract with Qatar Airways after paint fight
Omicron ‘sub-variant’ throws up new virus questions
German navy chief resigns over controversial Ukraine comments
UK accuses Russia of trying to install pro-Kremlin gov’t in Kyiv
Follow Al Jazeera English:
© 2022 Al Jazeera Media Network
You rely on Al Jazeera for truth and transparency
We understand that your online privacy is very important and consenting to our collection of some personal information takes great trust. We ask for this consent because it allows Al Jazeera to provide an experience that truly gives a voice to the voiceless. You have the option to decline the cookies we automatically place on your browser but allowing Al Jazeera and our trusted partners to use cookies or similar technologies helps us improve our content and offerings to you. You can change your privacy preferences at any time by selecting ‘Cookie preferences’ at the bottom of your screen.To learn more, please view our Cookie Policy.