Ancestral Puebloan peoples built sacred sites throughout the Chaco region. But today, the landscape is a patchwork of public, private, and tribal lands. According to the Navajo Nation, about 5,000 Navajo people own 160-acre allotments. Generations of Navajo people have passed down some of these parcels.
The order filed last week by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland does not affect tribal lands, only federal lands. Navajo allottees can still legally lease their lands for oil and gas development. However, with federal lands off the table, the oil and gas industry is unlikely to invest in the infrastructure needed for a local energy economy.
President Buu Nygren says the moratorium makes it nearly impossible for Navajo allottees near Chaco to lease their lands. “For them to force upon us a 10-mile freeze of our lands, to me, that’s quite unfair and disheartening,” said Nygren.