The Fort Sill Apache Tribe — descendants of the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches — applaud Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján’s efforts in reintroducing legislation to designate portions of the Gila and San Francisco rivers and their tributaries as Wild and Scenic. This legislation, if passed, will protect an irreplaceable natural resource for future generations of New Mexicans.
The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is the successor to the Chiricahua Apache — made up of a combination of the Gila, Mogollon, Mimbres, Copper Mine and Warm Spring Apaches — who once held the Aboriginal and Indian Title to over 14 million acres of land that included much of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona until the forced removal of the entire tribe as prisoners of war in 1886.
Much of the Gila and San Francisco rivers, along with the Gila National Forest and Wilderness, are located within the Fort Sill Apache Tribe’s original 14-million-acre settlement area. A section of the Gila River, which is of great spiritual importance to our Apache people, runs through the former reservation boundaries of the Gila Reserve, a reservation set aside for the Fort Sill Apache Tribe predecessors in New Mexico in 1861.
The waters of the Gila River flow from the slopes of our sacred mountains and are the location of traditional ceremonies that we still practice today. The artifacts found in places like Mogollon Box — one of the river segments included in the legislation — can never be replaced.
The clock is ticking to preserve these sacred sites.
The lands surrounding the Gila and San Francisco rivers provide a historical roadmap to our ancestors who lived on these lands hunting and harvesting throughout the region to provide food for their families. The evidence of our ancestors’ way of life is etched into stone, in the petroglyphs and pictographs that can be seen even today. These are more than historical and archaeological resources — they are a reminder of who we are and how far we have come.
Many of us still participate in the traditional uses of the land and the rivers that have been passed down for centuries. We continue to visit these rivers and their watersheds to connect to our past. The Gila and San Francisco’s flows sustain important Southwest riparian forest, which provides a sanctuary to some of the highest concentrations of noncoastal breeding birds in America and native fish populations, including the threatened Gila trout.
Two years ago, I sent a letter to Sen. Heinrich and then-Sen. Tom Udall expressing the Fort Sill Apache’s support of a Wild and Scenic designation for nearly 450 miles of the Gila and San Francisco rivers and their tributaries. The letter underscored my belief that it is our responsibility to protect these cultural, natural and historical resources for future generations, just as our ancestors cared for these lands and rivers before us.
As the tribe completes our repatriation back to New Mexico, I hope we will be able to stand with others to protect the beauty and biodiversity of the Gila and San Francisco rivers. Passing federal legislation to establish a Wild and Scenic designation for these waters is the first step we must take before that can happen.
Lori Gooday Ware is chairwoman, Fort Sill Apache.
Most Recent News
Protecting the Gila River is the Right Thing to Do – Lori Gooday Ware, Sante Fe New Mexican | January 16, 2022
Support Grows For Wild & Scenic Designation To Protect Gila River – Senator Martin Heinrich, Silver City Daily Press | October 13, 2021
River confab aims to ‘reengage’ community – Silver City Daily Press | October 12, 2021
Gila River remains a wild and free powerful resource – Kat Jacaruso, Las Cruces Sun-News | September 19, 2021
Group pitches deal on Gila Wild and Scenic segments – Silver City Daily Press | April 12, 2021
Let’s push for Wild and Scenic Gila – Grant County Commission Chairman Chris Ponce, Silver City Daily Press | March 1, 2021
Preserving the Gila River: Conservatives turn over a new leaf – Zorine Bhappu Shirley, Washington Times | January 18, 2021
Not “the Usual Pie in the Sky” | Study: Outdoor economy poised to grow with Wild and Scenic designation – Silver City Daily Press | November 27, 2020
Why I support a Wild and Scenic Gila River – NM Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard, Silver City Daily Press, November 24, 2020
Clean, protected waters will help New Mexico recover – Axie Navas, Santa Fe New Mexican | November 21, 2020
Study finds wild Gila and San Francisco rivers greatly contribute to local economy – Silver City Daily Press, November 24, 2020
Support is broad for Wild & Scenic – Harris Klein, Silver City Daily Press, November 6, 2020
Clock is ticking in fight for Gila River – Brett Myrick, Albuquerque Journal, October 18, 2020
Celebrate the Gila River during this year’s wilderness anniversary – Larry McDaniel, Silver City Daily Press, September 11, 2020
New StoryMap Highlights Proposed Protections in Wild Gila River Bill – Wild Gila River Coalition Press Release, August 10, 2020
Our wild lands and rivers are some of the best places for us to invest – Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, Las Cruces Sun-News, July 13, 2020
Wild and Scenic designation was right call by Udall, Heinrich – Mayor Martin Chavez, Albuquerque Journal, July 13, 2020
City of Bayard celebrating Wild and Scenic bill – Mayor Chon Fierro, Silver City Daily Press, July 13, 2020
Celebrate the Gila for Nat’l. Rivers Month – Rep. Rudy Martinez, Silver City Daily Press, June 22, 2020
Wild and Scenic column got it wrong – Grant County Commissioner Alicia Edwards, Silver City Daily Press, June 22, 2020
Wild and Scenic designation will benefit Silver City – Silver City Town Councilor Guadalupe Cano, Silver City Daily Press, May 20, 2020
Conservationist supports Gila bill – Ray Trejo, Silver City Daily Press, May 19, 2020
Wild and Scenic a benefit to all – Holley Hudgins, Silver City Daily Press, May 15, 2020
Udall, Heinrich introduce Gila ‘Wild and Scenic’ bill – Silver City Daily Press, May 13, 2020
Wild and Scenic designation offers area a munch-needed win – Cissy McAndrew, Silver City Daily Press, May 13, 2020
Legislation Introduced to Protect NM’s Gila, San Francisco Rivers – Public News Service, May 13, 2020
New Mexico’s U.S. senators propose Gila River protections – Santa Fe New Mexican, May 12, 2020
Udall, Heinrich introduce bill to protect Gila River – Albuquerque Journal, May 12, 2020
New Mexico senators unveil legislation to designate Gila River as ‘wild and scenic’ – Silver City Sun-News (via AP), May 12, 2020
The Gila is the backbone of our community – let’s keep it strong – County Commissioner Harry Browne, Silver City Daily Press, March 11, 2020
The Rio Chama proves value of Wild and Scenic designations – Mike Neas, Silver City Daily Press, March 4, 2020
Wild and Scenic a boon to business – Diana Ingalls Leyba, Silver City Daily Press, February 11, 2020
New Mexico deserves a Wild and Scenic Gila River – Howie Morales, Las Cruces Sun-News, February 9, 2020
Gila River’s Middle Box Home to Rare Species, Experiences – Silver City Independent, December 26, 2019
Some Wild and Scenic river facts – Larry McDaniel, Silver City Daily Press, November 6, 2019
Governor, protect our Gila River – Diana Ingalls Leyba, Silver City Daily Press, October 2, 2019
Outdoor rec and the governor – Shelby Hallmark, Silver City Daily Press, October 2, 2019
Wild and Scenic vote was an informed one – Tim Matthes, Silver City Daily Press, October 2, 2019
A win for the state’s last wild river – New Mexico Political Report, September 19, 2019
Credit due to Commissioner Ponce – County Commissioner Harry Browne, Silver City Daily Press, September 17, 2019
County votes to support Wild and Scenic Gila River – Silver City Daily Press, September 13, 2019
Grant County Votes to Support a Wild and Scenic Gila River – KRWG, September 13, 2019
Grant County Votes to Support a Wild and Scenic Gila River – Coalition Press Release, September 12, 2019
Time to support Wild & Scenic designation – Rocky Mondello, Silver City Daily Press, September 11, 2019
Wild and Scenic move a win-win – Kim McCreery, Silver City Daily Press, September 10, 2019
A perspective from over the hill – Randy Gray, Silver City Daily Press, September 6, 2019
Support Wild & Scenic designation – State Representative Rudy Martinez, Silver City Daily Press, September 6, 2019
Gila unites family, community – Vyncent Bourne, Silver City Daily Press, August 23, 2019
Keep Gila River wild and scenic – Jeff Arterburn and David Carmichael, Las Cruces Sun-News, July 28, 2019
Latino Conservation Week aims to get locals outside, speaking up – Silver City Daily, July 22, 2019
New Mexico Celebrates Latino Conservation Week – Public News Service, July 15, 2019
Gila gives life to the Mimbres Valley – Daniel G. Salais, Silver City Daily Press, June 18, 2019
Let’s preserve the Gila as Wild and Scenic – John Harned, Silver City Daily Press, June 5, 2019
Luchan por la preservación del Río Gila – Telemundo 48 El Paso, May 21, 2019
Gila River makes communities whole – Mayor Chon Fierro, Silver City Daily Press, May 15, 2019
New Mexico filmmaker screens ‘Hearts of the Gila’ during one-night only event – KRQE, May 2, 2019
Riding a river of grief – Albuquerque Journal, April 30, 2019
Regional screenings of upcoming film to include updates on Gila River Wild and Scenic proposal – KRWG, April 19, 2019
‘Hearts on the Gila’ focuses on mothers of children who died in Silver City plane crash – Silver City Sun-News, April 18, 2019
A wild Gila River, for the present and the future – Town Councilor Guadalupe Cano, Desert Exposure, April 1, 2019
Gila needs Wild and Scenic status – Chris Schlabach, Silver City Daily Press and Independent, March 16, 2019