Biden creates two new national monuments to honor tribes

President Joe Biden designated two new national monuments, one connected to tribes in Arizona, as part of his administration’s commitment to protecting historical sites, honoring culturally significant areas and conserving outdoor spaces.

“This matters because when we conserve our country’s natural gifts, we’re not just protecting the livelihoods of people who depend on them…We’re protecting the heart and the soul of our national pride,” Biden said during the designation on March 21. “We’re protecting pieces of history, our — telling our story that will be told for generations upon generations to come.”

The new national monuments include the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Nevada and Castner Range National Monument in Texas. This designation protects over half a million acres of public lands and honors tribal nations and military veterans, according to the White House.



“The Mojave people, known as the people by the river, hold Avi Kwa Ame in our hearts,” Fort Mojave Indian Tribe’s Chairman Tim Williams said during the designation. “Avi Kwa Ame, also known as Spirit Mountain, lays within the vast landscape of this pristine land of southern Nevada.”

The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe is one of Arizona’s 22 federally recognized tribes, and their tribal land spans parts of California, Nevada and Arizona. The Fort Mojave Indian people are known as Pipa Aha Macav or “The People By The River,” according to the tribe’s website. 

The Mojave Indian Tribe’s culture traces the origins of its people to Spirit Mountain, according to the tribe, which is located northwest of the tribe’s present reservation inside the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

“It is a place we know as our creation,” Williams said. “It is the beginning of our traditional songs and it is the place that Native Nations throughout the southwest hold scared.”

Williams said that when President Biden committed to protecting Avi Kwa Ame during the annual White House Tribal Nations Summit, their community was filled with joy. 

“What had once been a distant dream for our people suddenly seemed possible,” Williams said. “Since the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration, the president has demonstrated the commitment to respect tribal nations and our nation-to-nation relationship.”

Biden designating Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument honors tribal nations and Indigenous peoples by protecting their sacred Nevada landscape and its historically and scientifically essential features, according to the White House. 

“It’s one of our most beautiful landscapes that ties together one of the largest contiguous wildlife corridors in the United States: 500,000 acres,” Biden said of Avi Kwa Ame. “Sacred lands that are central to the creation story of so many tribes who have been here since time immemorial.”

Biden said it’s a place of reverence, spirituality, and healing that will now be recognized for its significance and preserved forever.

“When we think about protection, we think of it through a lens of respect,” said Ashley Hemmers, the tribal administrator for the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. ”If we can teach those things to people who are now moving into this space, then it’s not just ours. The mountain isn’t just for Mojave; it’s for everyone to protect,” 

Avi Kwa Ame is considered to be among the most sacred places on earth by the Mojave, Chemehuevi and some Southern Paiute people. It is also vital to other tribal nations and Indigenous Peoples, including the Cocopah, Halchidhoma, Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Kumeyaay, Maricopa, Pai Pai, Quechan, Yavapai and Zuni tribes.

“As leaders, we carry the honor of fighting for the right to protect that which is most sacred to the Mojave people,” Fort Mojave Indian Tribe’s Vice Chairman Shan Lewis said. “To be able to offer protection under the status of a monument now not only protects this sacred area but shares it with others in a respectable way.”

Avi Kwa Ame was designated as a Traditional Cultural Property on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its religious and cultural importance. The area also has one of the world’s most extensive Joshua Tree forests. It provides continuous habitat or migration corridors for species such as the desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise and Gila monster.   

Biden announced the national monument designations during the White House Conservation in Action Summit on March 21. 

The national monument spans more than 500,000 acres. It will be managed by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation as part of the National Conservation Lands System and the National Park Service as part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland applauded Biden’s proclamation naming Avi Kwa Ame a national monument. She said Avi Kwa Ame holds deep spiritual, sacred and historical significance to the Native people who have lived on these lands for generations.

“I am grateful to President Biden for taking this important step in recognition of the decades of advocacy from tribes and the scientific community, who are eager to protect the objects within its boundaries,” Haaland said. “Together with tribal leaders, outdoor enthusiasts, local elected officials, and other stakeholders, we will manage this new monument for the benefit of current and future generations.”

The Department of Interior stated that the monument’s designation would facilitate a wide range of opportunities to recreate in the national monument, including hiking, hunting, motorized recreation and camping.

The other national monument Biden designated is the Castner Range National Monument in El Paso, Texas. The designation will protect the cultural, scientific and historical objects found within the monument’s boundaries, the White House stated. It also honors veterans, service members, and Tribal Nations and expands access to outdoor recreation on our public lands.

“Avi Kwa Ame and Castner Range are spiritual, cultural, and natural treasures with thousands of years worth of history and legacies worth protecting,” said Chris Hill, the Our Wild America Campaign senior director for the Sierra Club. “Since time immemorial, these two places have had deep connections to the Indigenous peoples of Nevada and Texas and have been critical parts of the environmental landscapes of their regions.”

Hill said the designation will “preserve them for generations to come and add to the stories and legacies we commemorate through public lands, in addition to protecting critical habitats and vulnerable species.”

Biden said the United States Army manages the national monument at Fort Bliss, and it tells the story of the tribal nations who lived there and the armed forces members who trained on those lands. 

“It’s also a place of incredible beauty,” Biden added, noting that when spring comes, people will be able to see the Mexican gold poppies transform desert plains and hills into a sea of vibrant yellow and oranges.

“The people of El Paso have fought to protect this for 50 years,” Biden said. “Their work has finally paid off.”

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