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Fort Yuma Quechan Indians Celebrate Decision to Reject Mining Exploration Proposal That Threatened Sacred Land

Imperial County, Calif. (March 21, 2024) - Today, the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe issued the following statements to celebrate a key win in the protection of its sacred homelands. After tireless advocacy from the Quechan Tribal government, its Tribal citizens, and ally land protection groups, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors (ICBS) voted 3-1, in favor of the Tribe, to deny the Oro Cruz exploration gold mining project in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains, an area the Tribe is looking to permanently protect.

On March 19th the Tribe testified in front of the ICBS against the Oro Cruz project and plan which would have allowed for exploratory drilling operations in the mountains. The project was originally approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last September despite the Tribe’s objections. This decision is final and cannot be appealed.

The ICBS has jurisdiction over the reclamation planning process, a critical step in permitting the project. SMP Gold Corporation applied for permission to disturb 20 acres of land that contains historic and cultural artifacts directly connecting the Tribe to more than 13,000 years of stewardship in the region. Mining activities would have also irreversibly harmed natural values and required an enormous amount of water to operate each day.

The Tribe was successful in gaining the support of the ICBS who issued a denial of the project that threatened to disrupt a larger cultural landscape of ancient trails which extend all along the Colorado River Valley. This area is located in the Tribe’s traditional homelands within the proposed Kw’tsán National Monument designation proposal that the Tribe announced on February 1, 2024.

The following statements are in response to this news:

“Like many Tribal Nations throughout this country, we consistently find ourselves having to defend the integrity of our homelands, our spirituality, and the deep cultural roots we have in this area. We are thankful to the experts who supported our claims with science-based evidence of the destruction this project would cause and for the many voices that remained steadfast in helping us advocate for a place that, to this day, provides us the opportunity to practice who we are, and remember the spiritual and cultural ties we have to this land. We are also thankful to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors for hearing our concerns and taking Tribal voices and Tribal sovereignty seriously,” said Councilman Jonathan Koteen.

“Yesterday, we saw a moment we’ve been praying for - Native people must be heard. This decision gets us one step closer to the belonging that our people require in this society. Our land matters. Our people matter. Our culture matters. We are thankful that we can put this issue down so we can focus on working toward larger protections for this land. We appreciate everyone’s support and we hope that we can continue protecting and stewarding this land as our Creator has always intended,” said Councilman Donald Medart.

“I would like to thank our partners and the local Imperial Valley residents who provided their view on the impacts that would result from the destruction of the land, animals, habitat and plant life of this important landscape. The advocates also helped us point out flaws in the mining company’s documentation, making our argument that much stronger. I also echo my fellow council members in thanking the Imperial County Board of Supervisors for finally listening to our concerns and taking seriously the important historical perspective Native people bring regarding stewardship of traditional cultural property. As always, we will continue to stay on top of the protection of this landscape,” said Councilwoman Gloria McGee.

“The Imperial County Board of Supervisors decision brings us a sigh of relief and I’m thankful they decided to accept our appeal based on the merit of our voiced concern. The Tribe shares this win with our community of the Imperial Valley, and each organization who supported the Tribe in our efforts. We will continue to oppose any potential threat of desecration to our ancestral territories as we are the original stewards of this land,” said Councilman Zion White.

To learn more about the Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe’s lands protection work and to get involved, please visit:

About the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe: The Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe is a federally recognized Tribal Nation with more than 4,000 Tribal citizens and 45,000 acres of reservation land, located along both sides of the Colorado River in Imperial County, CA and Yuma County, AZ. The reservation borders the states of Arizona, California, and Baja California, Mexico and is home to the Quechan people, or Kwatsaan, meaning those who descended. To learn more about the Quechan  people and the Tribe’s history, please visit:

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