Sacred Mountains, Ranching Boost Part Of Navajo Nation’s Colorado Land Buy

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3min 55sec
Mark Hudson/USGS
View south along Huerfano River valley toward Blanca Peak, one of the 14,000+ ft peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Earlier in January, the Navajo Nation secured the purchase of Boyer Ranch in Custer County. Boyer is the second ranch they’ve bought up in Southern Colorado, marking their first ever land buys in the state.

All told, it will bring the nation closer to two sacred mountains: Blanca Peak and Hesperus Mountain. The purchase also comes with plenty of cattle and bison to bolster the Nation’s grass-fed beef business.

Navajo Nation president Russell Begaye says both ranches — Boyer Ranch and Wolf Springs Ranch — will carry on their livestock activities and they’ll also be used for retreats, ceremonies and gathering medicinal herbs. He says young Navajo will come and build hiking trails on the nearly 30,000 acres of new land.

“We really are emphasizing healthy living,” he says. “Eating healthy food, raising our own food.”

The Navajo Nation spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Since 2012, the Navajo Beef Program has partnered with individual ranches and co-ops to provide beef to restaurants and businesses across all three of those states. Begaye says the addition of more than 900 bison, purchased through the acquisition of the ranches, offers new opportunities for ranchers involved in the beef program.

Interview Highlights

On the importance of proximity to Blanca Peak and Hesperus Mountain:

“The creator placed Navajo people within the four sacred mountains. Everything we do, whether it’s legal signing of legislation, contracts, whatnot, it all happens within the four sacred mountains. And each of these mountains provides teachings and guidance to our people. All of our kids, all of our children, they know about the four sacred mountains, and it’s depicted in our flags, in the things that we do, things that we produce, every literature that we have depicts the four sacred mountains and the locations of those.” [Four sacred mountains: San Francisco Mountain, Taylor Mountain, Blanca Peak and Hesperus Mountain]

On expanding the Navajo Nation beef program:

“One of Navajo lifestyle is ranching. I mean, most of our people are ranchers, whether it’s cattle, our sheep and goats, or other types of livestock. But we’ve never had bison. We have stories of bison roaming Navajo Nation land, but we’ve never owned bison. It’s just a good place to expand our ranching and provide opportunities to our ranchers to utilize Boyer ranch and Wolf Springs.”

On other plans for the two ranches:

“We’re gonna continue the ranching, the buffalos, we’re going to make it into a retreat place where our people can come to meditate and conduct ceremonies, emphasize health. We’ll really be able to gather herbs on the ranch for our medicine people. And our young people [will] come up there and develop hiking trails, running trails, things like that. We really are emphasizing healthy living, eating healthy food, raising our own food, so that’s why we’re so much into grass fed beef, and now grass-fed buffalo and raising our own.”