Taken from High Country News
We at Clearly New Mexico just love this High Country News story by environmental writer Laura Paskus about the battle over Mt. Taylor near Grants, N.M.
In “Dueling Claims,” Paskus, a freelance reporter and former editor for the magazine, deftly weaves a compelling tale about the struggle between Native Americans who believe Mt. Taylor is sacred and the developers and landowners who want to surrender the land to uranium mining and more.
From the top of Mount Taylor, mountains, valleys and mesas unfold into the hazy blue distance; on clear days, you can see all the way to Arizona. The Navajo call the 11,301-foot-tall peak Tsoodzil, and say it marks one of the four directional boundaries of their spiritual world. The Acoma, who call it Kaweshtima, believe it was created by two sisters who also gave life to plants and animals; it’s still home to beings such as Shakak, the Spirit of Winter and the North. To the Zuni, the mountain is Dewankwin Kyaba:chu Yalannee.
“People may think it’s just a physical entity, that it sits there, and Zunis or Acomas or others, they only go there sometimes,” says Jim Enote, executive director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center at Zuni. “But people only go to Mecca once in their life, or Mount Sinai once in their life, or the Vatican once in their life.”
The mountain is sacred, he says, home to shrines and a place for gathering certain plants and minerals. “It is extremely important, and the people who go to Mount Taylor, to Dewankwin Kyaba:chu Yalanee, are doing so to help maintain an entire cosmological process,” he says. “They are doing it for the benefit of all humanity.”
Does the state’s recent designation of Mt. Taylor as a Traditional Cultural Property hand the mountain back over to the tribes – or does it merely give them a say in what happens there in the future? Does the TCP designation void private property rights and prohibit public access to the popular mountain?
In “Dueling Claims,” Paskus weeds out the rumors and emerges with the truth about what the state’s Traditional Cultural Property designation really means for Mt. Taylor and all the stakeholders involved.
It’s an engrossing, well-written piece of journalism. Please check it out!