We appreciate the opportunity to express our strong support for the addition of Chi’chil Bildagoteel (also known as “Oak Flat”) to the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural Property. Chi’chil Bildagoteel is a very important place for the Western Apache, Yavapai and other tribe’s people in the region. It is also an important and historic place for non-Indians as well due to its diverse ecosystems and important landscape features that have drawn people to the area for countless years.
It is important to note that just a week ago, on June 24, 2015, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed Chi’chil Bildagoteel on their America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list as an acknowledgement of its historic and cultural significance and due to potential threats of mining.
Many of us have personally enjoyed Chi’chil Bildagoteel’s ecological and recreational importance. In addition to our personal connections to Chi’chil Bildagoteel, we recognize its importance to the spiritual, cultural, and physical wellbeing of Native American Tribes. For groups that focus on the protection of recreational access, like the Access Fund and Concerned Climbers or Arizona, protection of Chi’chil Bildagoteel is critical both for its traditional, cultural and religious significance, but also because it is an exceptional place to recreate. Chi’chil Bildagoteel is a tranquil and majestic place to hike, climb, boulder, bird watch, and to relax from the frantic pace of most of our lives. We respect the traditional cultural importance of Chi’chil Bildagoteel to Native peoples and our recreational uses are tuned to not upsetting the balance between cultural and recreational use.
For conservational organizations, Chi’chil Bildagoteel is critical for the protection of the rare desert riparian habitat is contains. Only 5% of Arizona’s riparian desert habitat remains and Chi’chil Bildagoteel is important for its intact habitat as a home for wildlife and the endangered Arizona Hedgehog Cactus. The intact nature of the Chi’chil Bildagoteel ecosystem is one of the reasons that Chi’chil Bildagoteel is such an important traditional cultural area. Other than additional roads and the unobtrusive campsite facilities, the ecosystem is much as it was a hundred years ago. Conservation organizations understand that the connection between the protection of traditional cultural properties and the ecosystem is the same.
Members of the Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition (Concerned Citizens), one of our Coalition member groups, have their own cultural connections to Chi’chil Bildagoteel that go back generations. Chi’chil Bildagoteel is a place they have traditionally used to escape the summer heat of the lower, nearby town of Superior. Members of Concerned Citizens use Chi’chil Bildagoteel for picnicking, family gatherings, weddings, religious observances, and recreational uses. Members of Concerned Citizens are proud of the fact that many of the campground facilities were built during the Great Depression by CCC and WPA work projects and husband those features. Concerned Citizens find complete compatibility, comfort, and support in designating Chi’chil Bildagoteel as a Traditional Cultural Property.
As noted above, the nominated landscape contains places of exceptional value and significance in the histories, cultures, and religious traditions of Western Apache, Yavapai, and other tribal peoples. Many of our members have personally observed Native American uses at Chi’chil Bildagoteel over the years, including ceremonies, subsistence gathering, and the collection of native plants for religious, traditional and cultural purposes. We respect these uses and believe they should be acknowledged through the listing of this important place on the Historic Register. We are also aware that sites within Chi’chil Bildagoteel include rare, distinctive and high integrity examples of Apache and potentially other tribal encampments dating to periods well prior to the mid to late 1800s and the Reservation confinements.
Additionally and perhaps most importantly, the nomination documents and acknowledges the national-scale significance of a series of places of unparalleled sacred traditional, cultural and religious significance to certain Native American cultures. We support this acknowledgment and believe that it is truly appropriate in this instance.
For these reasons, we respectfully ask you to place Chi’chil Bildagoteel on the Register as soon as possible.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this Nomination. Please continue to include Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, the Access Fund, Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition, Concerned Climbers of Arizona, Earthworks, and the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance as interested parties and direct all future public notices and documents to us at the addresses below.