September 30: Letter to the editor

Dear Editor,

Thank you for covering “Push for historical marker at Lipan Apache Cemetery challenges who tells region’s history” by Sachi McClendon in The Big Bend Sentinel and Presidio International on September 23, 2021.

The Cementerio del Barrio de los Lipanes — a Lipan Apache Tribe cemetery in Presidio, Texas — is a sacred site of the Lipan Apache Tribe that is important to the hundreds of descendants who live in Presidio and beyond. I am one of those descendants and recently joined the process, as a family representative, in conversations regarding the ongoing preservation of the cemetery. I would like to acknowledge the work of many who are supporting the ongoing efforts to preserve the cemetery.

Presidio County Commissioners Court supported descendants in a recent ruling that would have transferred the cemetery’s land ownership without input from the families. We expressed our concerns to Judge Guevara, Commissioner Bentley, Commissioner Cabezuela, along with County Attorney Rod Ponton — we extend our thanks for holding this decision and creating space for these conversations to take place.

Presidio City Mayor John Ferguson and Presidio City Council — Nancy Arevalo, Billy Hernandez, Irvin Olivas, John Razo, Alcee Tavarez, Rogelio Zubia — along with City Administrator Brad Newton have supported our efforts by approving a public education campaign seeking to bring awareness to the cemetery. The city is now helping coordinate the return of missing cairns, or rocks, that mark the graves, which have been taken over the years and found in neighboring lots. Mayor Ferguson and Councilman Hernandez have been appointed as points of contact as we move forward, helping streamline communications. My deepest respect to Enrique Madrid for attending this meeting to talk about the cemetery’s importance in a way few others can.

The Presidio County Historical Commission has supported the families and tribal members by publicly supporting the descendants’ version of the marker text. In addition, Elbert Bassham and Robert Arber have taken meetings to hear concerns, and Terry Bishop has been central in surfacing text and helping coordinate responses. They have been right by our side standing up to the Texas Historical Commission when we needed them most.

We have been fortunate to have press covering this developing story, helping get word to the public about the history of the site, the families who take care of it, and the process to get a marker. Thank you Sterry Butcher, writing for Texas Monthly; Annie Rosenthal, reporting for Marfa Public Radio; Sachi McClendon and the editors at The Big Bend Sentinel.

Christina Hernandez
Descendant of the Aguilar and Ornelas Families- interred at Cementerio del Barrio de los Lipanes