The Las Conchas fire that, according to the federal Incident Management Team’s website, has scorched more than 121,000 acres and destroyed more than 100 buildings, is threatening ancient Indian sites. It had burned thousands of acres on the Santa Clara Indian Reservation and had spread onto the Bandelier National Monument, home to ancient Pueblo homes, rock paintings and petroglyphs, fire officials told CNN.
According to Tacoma, Washington’s News Tribune, more than 1,600 firefighters were fighting the fire in northern New Mexico as it scorched 20 square miles of tribal forest on the Santa Clara Pueblo reservation and threatened other pueblos on the Parajito Plateau. The fires have invaded the centuries-old Puye Cliff dwellings, a national historic landmark that was first inhabited by the Pueblo people in the late 1100s, and destroyed an estimated one-quarter of the Pueblo’s homelands, about 6,000 acres, including 63 homes on the reservation.
The ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.), is especially alarmed at the continuing destruction of the Pueblo’s cultural sites, forest resources, medicinal plants, culturally significant trees and animals by the overwhelming forest fires and today called for full assistance for the citizens and lands of the Pueblo. The House Committee on Natural Resources is the sole committee with jurisdiction over Indian affairs in the House.
“The forest fires that began in Arizona, having now spread to New Mexico, have caused immeasurable destruction on both states’ tribal communities and their rich natural resources,” said Rep. Markey in a press release. “I fully support my congressional colleagues’ call for federal emergency assistance in short order to assist the efforts of the tribes to combat the fires and address what will undoubtedly be a long and arduous recovery.”