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SRPMIC Supports Effort to Protect Great Bend of the Gila With a National Monument

U.S. Congressman Raúl Grijalva explains the importance of establishing the Great bend of the Gila National Monument at a news conference on August 29 in Phoenix. 

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, 12 other Native American tribes in Arizona and other advocates, including a U.S. congressman, recently renewed the call to establish the Great Bend of the Gila National Monument in southern Arizona.

U.S. Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) made the announcement on August 29 at the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona office in Phoenix. Grijalva has called on Congress to protect the ancestral homeland of 13 Native American tribes. He introduced a bill in June to preserve the area and establish the Great Bend of the Gila National Monument. Grijalva, Archaeology Southwest and representatives of some of the 13 tribes held a news conference about the proposal.

The proposed Great Bend of the Gila National Monument is 84,000 acres of federal land in Maricopa and Yuma counties, southeast of Buckeye. The 13 tribes have ancestral connections to the land (see sidebar), and a new 272-page study by Archaeology Southwest outlines the cultural and historical ties.

“This effort to protect the land of the Great Bend of the Gila demonstrates how Native Americans can come together on land that should be sacred,” said Gila River Indian Community Lt. Governor Monica Lynn Antone. “It’s our history, our ancestors and our vessels to our bloodlines.”

Grijalva said opposition is minimal, and he is encouraging a congressional hearing to prove it. It’s not yet known if Congress will hold the hearing. If Congress refuses, Grijalva said he’s prepared to strategize with the tribes and others on how to move the request to President Obama and the Antiquities Act, which gives the president the authority to create national monuments from public lands.

Grijalva initially introduced legislation in support of the monument in 2013.

“The more it lies unprotected and without this congressional designation, the more it’s open to abuse, vandalism and outright theft and the desecration of what other generations need to see,” Grijalva said.

Archaeological evidence of ancestral Hohokam and Patayan culture traditions, geoglyphs, petroglyphs and several significant trails are found in the Great Bend of the Gila.

“The study invites broader public appreciation of the deep historical connections of southwestern tribes to the cultural landscape of the Great Bend of the Gila,” said Archaeology Southwest President and CEO Bill Doelle. “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, titled “The Great Bend of the Gila River: Contemporary Native American Connections to an Ancestral Landscape,” can be found online at goo.gl/p3m1PC.