LAS VEGAS (AP) U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland joined members of Nevadas congressional delegation and tribal leaders on Friday to celebrate Avi Kwa Ame, the states newly designated national monument, saying the recognition of the desert mountain heralds a new era of environmental conservation in which the federal government and tribal nations will work together to maintain protected areas.

Haaland, the nations first Native American Cabinet member, said she visited Avi Kwa Ame on Friday to watch the sunrise and was moved by the desert mountains rich history.

I was struck by the power and presence of the ancestors in tribal communities who have prayed on, protected and drawn strength from this special place for thousands of years, Haaland said later in Las Vegas at a celebration attended by tribal leaders and members of Congress.

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President Joe Biden established the monument last month, nearly a year to the day after U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat, introduced legislation to permanently protect the desert mountain region considered sacred by some tribes.

The area stretches more than 500,000 acres (202,300 hectares) in southern Nevada and includes Spirit Mountain, a peak northwest of Laughlin called Avi Kwa Ame (ah-VEE kwa-meh) by the Fort Mojave Tribe and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Titus, in her remarks at the private Las Vegas event, described Avi Kwa Ame as a crown jewel. It just doesn’t get any better than that, she said. So we celebrate today on this gorgeous southern Nevada day all the things that Avi Kwa Ame means to the tribes.

Tribal leaders in Arizona said earlier this week they hope to build on the momentum of Avi Kwa Ame’s national monument designation to persuade the the Biden administration to create similar protections for areas adjacent to the Grand Canyon, which they also consider sacred.



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