El Cementerio de los Lipanes Transferred to Tribe

November 5, 2021

We are proud to announce a historic event for our tribe. Locally known as both El Cementerio de los Lipanes and El Cementerio del Barrio de los Lipanes, the Lipan cemetery, a small portion of sacred burial grounds located within Presidio, TX, was donated by the City of Presidio and the County of Presidio to our Lipan Apache Tribe. On November 2nd, 2021, City of Presidio Mayor John Ferguson and Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara signed the deed over to the Tribe, confirming the donation of this sacred site to us.

Beginning in the late 1700s, some Lipan Apache lived around Presidio in a peaceful settlement established by Spanish colonizers to end hostilities between these two groups. Accordingly, the burial grounds, including the portion historically known as El Cementerio de los Lipanes, became the final resting place of many of our ancestors who camped there.

However, as the years passed, Mexican and American settlers moved to Presidio eventually creating neighborhoods that expanded into the burial grounds. With no protective walls, houses were built over and city constructions cut through graves, consequently shrinking the boundaries of the burial site and desecrating graves. Neglected, the remaining Lipan cemetery withered on the vine as the city created a back alley over graves, rocks from the burial mounds were pilfered or scattered about, soil eroded, and trespassers littered the place with trash. In 2013, the Tribe expressed alarm that the burial site was being damaged, destroyed, and disrespected. In 2014, the Tribe won their petition to the Texas Historical Commission to designate the remaining burial site as a State Antiquities Landmark and, thus, giving it some legal protection from further destruction and abuse. In his archeological survey in 2014, David Keller from the Center of Big Bend Studies (CBBS) determined that the ground of Lipan cemetery had at least 45 graves, with possibly 12 more. However, only two of these graves are marked.

With Tribal ownership of the burial grounds at El Cementerio de los Lipanes, the Tribal Council will work hard to finally build a protective wall or fence around the site, reclaim stones that were taken from the graves, reclaim grave sites, and have a historical marker from the Texas Historical Commission erected there. The Lipan Apache Tribe and its Tribal Council are thankful to the Presidio community, its elected officials, the local Lipan families of the people known to be buried at the site, CBBS, and the Big Bend Conservation Alliance for their strong support and help in returning this sacred land to our Tribe.

For more details and information, CNN and the Big Bend Sentinel have reported on this historic event:

CNN: "An Indigenous tribe in Texas is getting its sacred burial ground back"

The Big Bend Sentinel: "Presidio Country makes history by transferring ownership of cemetery to the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas"

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