Mojave Trails National Monument Celebrated

March 4 event commemorates year-old monument that protects landscape significant for its Native American holy sites and history

monument landscape

Mojave Trails National Monument protects numerous historic resources, among which are ancient Native American trading routes and holy sites.

RIVERSIDE, California — Mojave Trails National Monument, established in 2016 in the Mojave Desert, will be celebrated in a public event on Saturday, March 4, at Sherman Indian High School, 9010 Magnolia Ave., Riverside.

The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and is free and open to the public. It will include speakers from the Native American Land Conservancy, Native American singers, and free admission to Sherman Indian Museum. Parking is available in the lot on Jackson Street. Event sponsors are the Native American Land Conservancy, Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs at UC Riverside, and Sherman Indian Museum.

Festivities will begin at 10 with welcomes by Clifford E. Trafzer, distinguished professor of history and Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs at UC Riverside, and Miss Sherman Mikelle Ivins (White Mountain Apache), and flute invocation by Henry Vasquez. Robert Paull and Nicole Johnson, members of the Native American Land Conservancy Board of Directors, will discuss the significance of Mojave Trails National Monument and efforts by the conservancy to protect and restore sacred sites in Southern California. The program will conclude with singing by Joshua Gonzales, Joshua Thunder Little, and Jordan Thomas of UCR’s Native American Student Programs office.

The Mojave Trails National Monument is one of three national monuments established by President Barack Obama on Feb. 12, 2016, that together total 1.8 million acres and stretch almost from the Colorado River to the Little San Bernardino Mountains near Palm Springs. Mojave Trails is the largest of the three at 1.6 million acres, with a landscape of rugged mountain ranges, ancient lava flows, and spectacular sand dunes. It protects historic resources such as ancient Native American trading routes, World War II-era training camps, and the longest stretch of Route 66 that remains undeveloped.

The monument “preserves an enchanting landscape placed on earth by the first Creators,” said Trafzer of UC Riverside. “Yuman and Uto-Aztecan speakers of Arizona, Nevada, and California used many trails intersecting the Mojave Desert, and some families lived in the mountains and valleys that will now be preserved by the new national monument.”

Over thousands of years, indigenous people of California and the Southwest left priceless artifacts, campsites, milling areas, and holy places in the area encompassed by the Mojave Trails National Monument, he said.

“These places and features tell us about indigenous lives over time,” Trafzer said. “The monument holds secrets about climate change and how American Indians survived in the Mojave Desert for over 9,000 years, and maybe more.  This is part of American history, and this place now belongs to Americans to be shared with people from around the world.”

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Cliff Trafzer

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