Caleb Henderson, anthropology major at Texas State University, was astonished at the uncertain future for Bears Ears.
Henderson was just one of nearly a dozen college students from various universities to take part in the Flight Across America Student Program 2016. This year in celebration of the National Park Centennial the students flew over Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde and Chaco Culture national parks, Colorado National Monument, and the proposed Grand Canyon and Bears Ears national monuments.
Learning about the issues surrounding some of the landmarks, such as Bears Ears, from environmentalists and local grassroots advocates, Henderson was taken aback at how hard they have to fight.
“I don’t understand. I really think it’s preposterous,” said Henderson about the ongoing efforts to protect places like Bears Ears or Chaco Canyon. “I heard, I don’t know how true it is, that no area has been designated as a national monument since Native Americans have become more vocal about their sacred lands.”
Keeping sacred lands safe has always been an uphill battle for indigenous people. During the Hillary Clinton Moving Forward bus tour on Oct. 21, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-N.M.) got an earful from a constituent who brought a resolution from the Diné Medicine Men Association demanding protection of Chaco Canyon from fracking.
“We are not being heard,” said Etta Arviso to Lujan-Grisham. “We have a lot of sacred sites and people are wanting to get into Chaco Canyon … I’m talking about fracking.”
But waiting for a chance encounter with a state or congressional representative to ask them to protect sacred lands is not always effective or certain.
So, EcoFlight works toward preserving National Parks and other significant landmarks in its own way — by offering flyovers of the areas so people can experience them for themselves. They also work along with partners and stakeholders to ensure preservation and to impact the future.