BLM withdraws Indian Pass to protect sacred sites

provided by Courtney Ann Coyle

n Oct 27, the Bureau of Land Man agement ("BLM") has announced the withdrawal of 9,360 acres of lands in the Indian Pass area of Imperial County from mineral entry to protect archaeological and cultural resources sacred to the Quechan Indian Tribe and other Colorado River peoples. The land order has been in process for several years.

"We have been fighting this for awhile and we will continue to fight to protect our history, just like anyone else in the United States would," stated Mike Jackson, Sr., President of the Quechan Tribal Council. He added that, "This is very important to our people -- something we need to preserve once it's gone it is gone forever."

The area in question is very important to the history, religion and present traditional cultural use and future use by the Quechan people, and other Colorado River tribes.

Courtney Ann Coyle, Attorney for the Quechan Tribe stated, this action is, "A great step forward towards appropriate management of this culturally important area." She added, "However, withdrawal will only truly accomplish its purpose if the proposed Glamis Imperial mine is denied."

The proposed Glamis Imperial Mine is a massive, open-pit, cyanide heap-leach goldmine that would be located in the heart of the area now withdrawn from future mining claims. The proposed mine has drawn substantial opposition from Native American tribes, labor groups, environmental organizations, academia and experts in religion.

The Quechan Indian Tribe is a federally-recognized tribe. Members on the reservation total about 3,000 persons. The Quechan are the third largest California land-based tribe, with about 45,000 acres in reservation status. Their aboriginal lands include the area withdrawn today. Many members still speak their native language.

Pauline Owl, chairperson of the Quechan Culture Committee observed that, "BLM's action today shows that sacred sites are indeed more precious than gold."