Rio Grande Tribe Fights to Save its Heritage from Fracking

fracking machinery stands in rows along a natural gas pipeline


Historically marginalized people who live along the Texas and Mexico border are once again under serious pressure from large corporations who wish to exploit their sacred land. Oil and gas companies greedy for more are attempting to exploit sacred lands, and in turn, all but murder the deeply rooted beliefs of native people living there.

The future of the Carrizo Comecrudo tribe, like many tribal nations across the country, is on the precipice of extinction ­­— not an extinction of people, but of tradition. It is their tie to the land that once made it strong. That same tie is what now puts their lives and beliefs at risk.

The Carrizo Comecrudo origin story says that all good and beautiful things are washed up from the Great River. Their story begins with the first woman, a good person, born of those good things.

Now industrialization threatens to wash away the ‘good things’ of the river, to dig them out and steal the life from the river’s banks.

Developers intend on building two large export plants along the sacred river in order to sell oil and natural gas, acquired through the harmful process of fracking, to international markets.  

Juan Mancias, a storyteller, keeper of the lifeways and tribal leader, was told his people’s origin myth throughout his childhood and raised with a respect for the sacred sites of his people.

Throughout 2022, Mancias has traveled throughout Europe to develop a global campaign to stop liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. Like his people of generations before, Mancias has been forced to “scatter” in search for help due to the oppression and trauma. 

The site intended for LNG export facilities is not just one of mythological significance, but it also holds an ancient burial ground and village. A village and archaeological site, it has been called by the World Monument Funds “one of America’s premier archaeological sites.” It could very well become another one of the thousands of ancient sites desecrated and lost on American soil due to manufacturing, fracking, and exploitation of natural resources. 

More Oil, But at What Cost?

Near the Gulf of Mexico at the port of Brownsville, 625 acres of land has caught the eyes of Texas LNG companies for years. It’s proximity to pipelines and areas where natural gas is extracted in the Permian basin make the sacred land prime real estate for an export facility. With such facilities comes more pipelines and more fracking which in turn leads to more loss of life, quality of life, and heritage. 

For the world and America to meet its intended emission reduction’s goal, the International Energy Agency believes novel investments in fossil fuels must end. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, bolsters support for new investments in the sector. This one new facility on the tribe’s land equates to the emissions of 40.4 million cars every year.

The proposed drilling not only affects tradition, but also threatens the tribe’s primary water source.

The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Nation Prehistoric Preservation Act and the Native Americans Religious Freedom Act are just a few of the pieces of legislation intended to stand in the way of Texas LNG. But they are being waived and ignored in the favor of large oil and gas companies like the Texas LNG project.

The Sierra Club and Rainforest Protection Network are calling upon financial institutions across the world and decision makers to:

  1. Cease financial support to the LNG export projects
  2. Align their financial policies with the target of reducing carbon emissions 
  3. For local governments to support environmental justice, so marginalized communities do not suffer from pollutants disproportionally.
  4. To abandon any approvals for such projects already given, and to deny any future permits. To also cease in using taxpayers’ money to fund such terminals.
  5. Finally, to protect all Americans from undisclosed stranded assets and other financial risks concerning climate.

Mancias and others are still fighting these problems with great heart and power, as they have been for many years — as have many tribal communities across the country.

Scarring sacred and protected land by removing natural resources not only threatens the health of native or marginalized people living there, but it alters their very identity. If this drilling proceeds, not only will the Great River no longer be accessible to the Carrizo Comecrudo people; their source of life will be unsafe.