Blessing the Monuments on May 27


On May 27, the NALC gathered with members of the Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Hualapai, Hopi, Paiute, and Serrano tribes to bless the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments at the 29 Palms Inn located at the Oasis of Mara in Twenty Nine Palms. Together, we celebrated the ways the new Monuments offer added protection to our cultural sites and lands in the Mojave.

The blessing commemorated the 111th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, which grants the President the power to establish National Monuments. The three Desert Monuments were established by President Obama in 2016 acting under authority of the Antiquities Act. New changes under the existing Administration opened these designations for review. On April 26, the Department of the Interior announced the first ever formal public comment period for members of the public to officially weigh in on monument designations. A public comment period is not required for monument designations under the Antiquities Act and many tribal people and Monument supporters are concerned that the pending review could threaten the protections offered by the Monument designation.

Many attendees filled out comments to Interior to express their concern and encourage Interior Secretary Zinke to maintain the Monuments’ current boundaries.

“Advocating for the monuments is central to protecting off-reservation cultural sites,” stated NALC founding Board member Matt Leivas as he detailed the importance of the Monument designation in protecting cultural lands like those along the Salt Song Trail. The Salt Songs are the sacred songs of the Nuwuvi people and describe a physical and spiritual landscape spanning ocean and desert, mountains and rivers, life and death. The Salt Song Trail runs through the Mojave National Monument and moves throughout Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California.

During an open discussion, tribal participants and attendees from the general public commented on the importance of open spaces in their own lives and for the next generations. Later in the day, Cahuilla and Chemehuevi tribal members blessed the monuments by singing Bird Songs and Salt Songs. Bird Songs, part of the Cahuilla tradition, tell of the ancient times and the origin of the Cahuilla people. The Salt Songs detail landmarks that represent ancient villages, gathering sites for salt and medicinal herbs, trading routes, historic events, sacred areas, and cultural landscapes. 

Cahuilla Bird Singers (left to right): Michael Madrigal, Sean Milanovich, led by Kim Marcus.
Chemehuevi elder and NALC board member Matthew Leivas, Sr, spoke of the Salt Songs, the ancient funerary songs of Chemehuevi people, which travel through the Mojave Trails National Monument.

The NALC would like to extend a special thanks to the Smith Family, who owns and operates the 29 Palms Inn; Pat Flanagan, the naturalist for the 29 Palms Inn; and our Board members.