The Native American Heritage Month Committee presents the Last Lecture Series "Taos Blue Lake" a talk by Dr. Jane Hafen.
Hidden in the mountains of northern New Mexico lies Blue Lake, or Ba Whyea, an ancient sacred site for the Taos Pueblo community. After the U.S. government appropriated Blue Lake and the surrounding area and placed it under the control of the Forest Service, the ensuing battles for Blue Lake came to epitomize Native Americans’ struggle for religious freedom and protection of sacred land.
On Sept. 17 and 18, 2010, the Taos Pueblo community celebrated the 40th anniversary of the return of Blue Lake and its surrounding land to the Pueblo. Reflecting the lasting importance of the historic event, tribal member Sylvia Mirabal, who was only eight years old in 1970, said, “We are able to still get to Blue Lake freely, and that’s the most significant thing. My grandfathers made this happen.”
It took a long campaign for congressional legislation, and ultimately an executive decision, to restore Blue Lake to the Taos Pueblo people. Testimony by native practitioners, determined insistence on religious freedom and justice, and nurturance of public support over 60 years brought about a positive outcome. The Blue Lake case set a model precedent for sacred land disputes: by returning land to the tribe, impact was limited and permanent protection of the sacred place was ensured.