Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, thank you for visiting El Paso

Rafael Gomez Jr.

Home Secretary Deb Haalandthank you for visiting El Paso – the proud home of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribe.

It has been a great honor to show you around our area as we the people of El Paso fight to save the iconic Castner range.

We would like to congratulate you on being the first Aboriginal leader to hold the office of Cabinet Secretary. As a member of Laguna Pueblo, you are an inspiration to current and future generations of Native Americans.

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Our people are heard, thanks to the hard work and dedication of leaders like you. Thank you for your service to our country and our people.

We ask you again to join us in preserving our land by helping to designate Castner Range – a treasure nestled in the mountains of El Paso – as a national monument.

Residents of the Paso del Norte area have fought for decades to protect the 7,081 acres of Castner Range. It is truly a monument that our people have shared from generation to generation.

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar championed this movement in Congress and was instrumental in the fight for its protection.

“Castner Range is the jewel in the crown of West Texas and a source of great pride for the people of El Paso,” Escobar said in a press release last year. “As our country takes unprecedented action to conserve public land and water and fight climate change, I am proud to reintroduce the Castner Range National Monument Act and very grateful to the grassroots community leaders who have worked without slack off on this issue.”

She continued, “Together, we can meet the moment by increasing equitable access to outdoor spaces and ensuring that families in El Paso can continue to create memories surrounded by the fascinating beauty and history of Castner Range.”

This iconic land tells the story of our region and the people of West Texas. It contains ancestral ruins of the region’s first peoples, evidence of the development of agriculture, ancient railway systems, mining remains and a historic military presence.

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In the spring, our Castner range illuminates the entire east side of our town in gold which can be seen for miles.

Blooms of Mexican Golden Poppies have brought millions of people to our region, and we will celebrate them this year in hopes of continued protection for their land.

Golden poppies are a source of local pride and have become the symbol of El Paso. Spring at Castner Range is a sight to behold and one that we must protect at all costs.

Castner Range is a place that brings families together. A place that unites our city. A place for the people.

For the Tigua people of Ysleta del Sur, this land is our home – the home of our culture, our traditions, our heritage and our history. Long ago, our lands were illegally taken from us and our very existence was threatened. In an effort to right these historical wrongs, we humbly request that this land be protected.

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Words alone cannot do justice to describe the breathtaking views of Castner Range. As you’ve seen firsthand, Castner Range is full of life, despite the seemingly empty desert floor. Archaeological evidence in the form of structural remains, pictographs, petroglyphs and pottery pieces remind us of some of the area’s earliest human inhabitants. Knock over a rock and the bugs will run.

The power to save Castner Range is in the President’s hands. The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants President Biden the power to protect lands of cultural or scientific significance by presidential proclamation.

Under President Barack Obama, the nearby Organ Mountains Desert-Peaks have been designated a National Monument. We call on President Joe Biden to do the same for our community.

We hope that during your visit to our city, Secretary Haaland, you have been inspired by the incredible beauty that is Castner Range and that you will take our message with you to President Biden: Protect Caster Range.

The people of Ysleta del Sur, the Paso del Norte region and our future generations need your help.

Rafael Gomez Jr. is a Tribal Councilor from Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

Betty K. Park