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In Presidio, city and county officials take final steps to transfer historic cemetery to Lipan Apache Tribe

Sarah Vasquez for Marfa Public Radio

The small cemetery in Presidio holds the graves of multiple people who traced their ancestry to the Lipan Apache tribe. For years, the land where the graves sit has been owned by the city and Presidio County, even though burial sites have largely been maintained by family members.

Now, local officials are opting to give those descendants control over the land. The Presidio City Council has voted to transfer the lots where some graves are located to the county, which will in turn transfer the whole cemetery to the tribe.

Presidio city attorney Rod Ponton spoke in favor of the decision Monday evening.

“If y’all take action on this, the cemetery is out of your hands and we’ve done the right thing by the Lipan Apache and their descendants, including one of your council members here," said Ponton. "And we’re happy to try to work with the Lipan Apache Tribe on whatever they do in the future.”

The council’s unanimous vote was met with applause –– including from family members in attendance.

Earlier this month, Presidio County commissioners approved their own plan to transfer ownership of the cemetery land from the county to the  Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.

After the county's approval, Lipan Apache descendant Christina Hernandez said relatives of those buried at the cemetery are feeling grateful that they will soon be able to be more involved in preservation work at the site.

“We’re relieved that now we will not just be bystanders in our own history,” she said.

With the city and county's approval, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara and Presidio Mayor John Ferguson officially signed the deeds transferring the cemetery to the Lipan Apache Tribe Tuesday afternoon.

Courtesy of Big Bend Conservation Alliance
County Judge Cinderela Guevara and Mayor John Ferguson signed the deeds to transfer the Lipan Apache Cemetery to the Lipan Apache Tribe.

Annie Rosenthal is Marfa Public Radio's Border Reporter and a Report for America corps member.