Mount Taylor

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Location: Southwest New Mexico near the town of Grants, USA

Who Considers it Sacred? American Indians of the pueblos of Acoma, Laguna, Hopi and Zuni. It is also sacred to the Navajos. It is a pilgrimage place for as many as 30 American Indian tribes including the Apache, Arizona Oodam groups, Pai and Utes.

Significance: To the Navajo, who call it Tsoodzil or the turquoise mountain, it is one of four sacred mountains marking the cardinal directions and the parameters of Dinetah, the traditional Navajo territory. Tsoodzil is considered to be the southern edge of their territory and is associated with the color blue and female gender. In Navajo oral histories, the four sacred mountains were created by First Man from the earth of the holy Fourth World molded together with sacred matter in the perfect likeness of mountains from that world.

Mount Taylor is the home of the Acoma Goddess of Creation. Mount Taylor is the source for Acoma people for sacred pine bows held by dancers in rituals and for logs used in the construction of kivas. Short pine branches from the top of the mountain are also held by dancers at Acoma.

The Threat: Uranium mining on federal, state and private lands. Mount Taylor sits on one of the largest sites of uranium ore and mining is under consideration for federal, state and private land. The 1872 Mining Law governs much of the land and permits mining without environmental review or assessment of its impact on cultural resources. Mining would also adversely effect the primary source of water for the Acoma Pueblo. Their water comes from the Rio San Jose that is primarily fed from the snow-melt from Mount Taylor. Wind blows radioactive dust throughout the region, children play with tailing pipes strewn about the landscape, and houses have been built with radioactive waste tailings built into cement used in housing.

There is also a small coal mine on the north side of the mountain that degrades the site.

Preservation Status: As of February 2013, the US Forest Service has been engaged with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other organizations, including pueblo and tribal representatives regarding potential environmental and cultural impacts from the proposed La Jara Mesa and Roca Honda uranium mining projects. The Forest Service announced that they would supplement the La Jara Mesa Draft Environmental Impact Statement with more materials when additional information is discovered.

An application for inclusion of the mountain on the State of New Mexico’s Register of Cultural Properties as a Traditional Cultural Property is being held up due to litigation by mining companies challenging the designation. An application for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places has been prepared but has not been submitted.

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