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U.S District Court Judge Robert Brack issued a ruling in the Pueblo of Jemez v. United States of America case, which sought to return the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the Jemez Pueblo.
Brack dismissed the Jemez Pueblo’s claim in his decision.
Valles Caldera Trust, Board of Trustees Chairman Kent Salazar issued the following statement,
“On Sept. 24, 2013, the United States District Court of the District of New Mexico dismissed the Pueblo of Jemez’s lawsuit related to the lands in and around the Valles Caldera. We will continue to work closely with the Pueblo nonetheless to ensure the cultural history, spiritual significance and the landscape are preserved for generations to come. It is what we do as the Valles Caldera Trust and what we are committed to as friends and neighbors of the Pueblo of Jemez.”
Brack’s ruling stated the following.
“Defendant is immune from suit unless it consents to be sued. Plaintiff has the burden of establishing jurisdiction. This Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a claim against Defendant for which sovereign immunity has not been waived.
“ Plaintiff has not met its burden to establish a valid waiver of sovereign immunity. As a result, Plaintiff’s claim may not proceed and the statute of limiatations had run out.
“Plaintiff’s claim is barred because it fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the ICC and it is barred by the statute of limitations contained within the ICCA.”
The Jemez Pueblo argued that Valles Caldera National Preserve is replete with evidence of ancestral villages, sacred and ceremonial sites and shrines of the Their suit claimed the Jemez Pueblo has, in fact, never severed its ties with this ancestral homeland. Jemez people continue to rely on the Caldera for subsistence hunting, forage for livestock, irrigation water, wild plants and trees used for food, medicine and ceremonial objects, timber for construction and firewood and obsidian and chert for stone tools.
But the pueblo’s ultimate concern centered on trails and sacred areas used by the pueblo’s religious societies, and mineral and hot springs used by medicine societies for curing ailments.
“The Valles Caldera is our cathedral. It is just as important for us as the Vatican is for the Catholics and as the famous Blue Lake is to Taos Pueblo.
“It is where the spirits of our ancestors reside and it is our most important spiritual place,” said former Jemez Governor Madalena at a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing in June, 2010.
Oral histories say that the image of an eagle with a lightning bolt coming from its beak on Redondo Peak (known as Wav e ma to the Jemez people) was the sign for the tribe to settle there when they migrated from the Four Corners region.
“Wav e ma is the mother peak of the other volcanic domes in the Caldera. Wav e ma means that we will never be in want if we continue to live close to her. For many centuries we have lived in spiritual and ecological harmony with the Valles Caldera,” Madalena said.
That is why the pueblo filed a lawsuit in federal court on July 20, 2010, to reclaim the Valles Caldera National Preserve.