Cemetery Protective Wall Construction Update

December 15, 2022

In late December 2021, the Lipan Apache Tribe agreed to partner with Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA) in raising money to construct a protective wall at a Lipan Apache burial ground (El Cemeterio de los Lipanes) in Presidio, TX, where BBCA would fundraise 75% of the funds and the Tribe 25%. BBCA’s help had already been arranged between local families and this organization before the cemetery was transferred to the Tribe. It seemed like a good arrangement since BBCA was a local organization with a deep interest in local conservation and with an experienced executive director, so the Tribe agreed to continue the partnership. The BBCA's executive director worked with an architect and estimated the cost of planning, designing, and constructing the protective wall to be about $120,000. The executive director also developed a tentative 2022 timeline as follows:

                ◈ January to March: Ground Penetrating Radar, Design, Construction Drawings
          ◈ April to May: Permits and Construction Contracts
          ◈ June to August: Fabrication and Construction
          ◈ October: Opening Ceremony

BBCA's executive director and the Tribe agreed that both parties had to complete the fundraising for the 120K before the start of construction in June. Thanks to the many friends, members, and organizations who donated through both BBCA and the Tribe, this goal was met.

The Tribe got definite word by the end of summer, though, that construction on the cemetery wall had not started as had been planned on the project timeline (above). We found out soon afterwards that the issue has been that the initial architect was unable to continue his work on the project. The Tribe was not alerted of this problem. Throughout the summer, BBCA's executive director had worked with others who were locally connected to find another architect. Subsequently, they were introduced to the MASS Design Group, an award-winning firm with a mission to “research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity” and this organization was hired by BBCA to design the protective wall. (Read more about MASS Design Group here: https://www.massdesigngroup.org/.) MASS architects presented their ideas and design for the protective wall via Zoom meetings to BBCA in September and October.

In October 2022, the Tribe formed the Presidio Cemetery Committee (PCC), a committee of the Tribe’s Cemetery Association, to improve communication, planning, and decisions between BBCA and the Tribe on the protective structure's construction. The committee has five members which includes tribe members and local experts, with four being Indigenous people, three that are Lipan Apache Tribe members. Although the architect for MASS had already presented the new design, the committee made the final decision to go forward with accepting it. (See MASS Design Group’s protective structure design here: https://www.lipanapache.org/LAT/assets/video/231007_lipanfinalcut.mp4). The Cemetery Committee will work closely with BBCA's executive director as the project continues. Going forward, the executive director will notify PCC of important matters concerning the project, i.e. if there are any anticipated delays in the planning or construction of the cemetery's protective structure and if any changes need to be made to the design of the structure.

The new plan is for the construction of the protective struction to start in early 2023, but the new MASS design which includes 12 walls, a path, and information signage will be constructed in four phases. The Spring 2022 fundraising will cover the construction of the inner protective walls in phase 1 (identified as walls 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, and 11), but further fundraising will be necessary for a subsequent construction phases and MASS Design Group's oversight.

Assuming no delays, Phase 1 construction is expected to be completed by mid-April 2023. The Tribe will continue to inform the Tribe members as they get news on the new timeline for this project.