Avi Kwa Ame Fact Sheet

(Adapted from Honor Avi Kwa Ame)

The proposed Avi Kwa Ame (Ah-VEE kwa-meh) National Monument in Southern Nevada contains some of the most visually stunning, biologically diverse, and culturally significant lands in the entire Mojave Desert.

Stretching from the Newberry mountains in the east to the New York, South McCullough, Castle, and Piute mountains in the west, these lands feature dramatic peaks, scenic canyons, natural springs, sloping bajadas covered with ancient Joshua tree forests, unique grasslands, and a rich history of rock art and other cultural sites.

Avi Kwa Ame is the Mojave name for “Spirit Mountain” and the surrounding landscape. The mountain, located on the eastern boundary of the proposed monument, and the surrounding landscape are sacred to twelve Native American tribes.

The entire area is considered sacred by ten Yuman speaking tribes as well as the Hopi and Chemehuevi Paiute. For the Yuman tribes, the area is tied to their creation, cosmology, and well-being. Spirit Mountain is designated a Traditional Cultural Property on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its religious and cultural importance.

Energy developers recently tried to build a large, 30,000-acre wind farm in the heart of this dramatic landscape and newly proposed project has heightened efforts to protect the region. Such development would forever scar these valuable lands and degrade their world-class habitat and nationally recognized cultural resources.

A coalition of tribes, local Searchlight, Boulder City and Laughlin residents, the Nevada Legislature, conservation groups, recreation interests, and others is working to establish the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument to permanently protect these treasured lands.

Ecological Background

  • The proposed monument is a hotspot of botanical diversity, providing habitat for a cacophony of plant and animal diversity, including many species found nowhere else on Earth. The proposed monument includes the eastern edge of the world’s largest Joshua tree forest, which is home to some of the oldest and largest Joshua trees in existence—the oldest over 900 years old.
  • The area also contains critical habitat for the desert tortoise and contains the largest area of high-quality tortoise habitat in the State of Nevada. It may also possess the highest desert tortoise population densities in the state. The proposed monument is an important migratory corridor for desert bighorn sheep, and a herd of desert bighorn lives on the steep, rocky slopes of the Castle Mountains and the New York Mountains. Other threatened species in the area include the Gila monster.
  • The area has been designated as an Important Birding Area for its unique and diverse assemblage of birds that includes gilded flickers, Harris’ hawks, and curved-billed thrashers. The area contains one of the highest known density of golden eagles in Nevada. In addition, nearly two dozen species of raptors, reside in the proposed monument including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and western screech owls.
  • Upland areas of the proposed monument contain a unique arid grassland community that includes 28 species of native grasses, about half of which are rare.
  • The Monument would create an essential corridor that connects the Mojave National Preserve, Castle Mountains National Monument, Mojave Trails National Monument, and Dead Mountain Wilderness Area in California with Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada and the Colorado Plateau. This will serve as a contiguous block of habitat of sufficient quality and quantity to promote the survival, growth, reproduction, and maintenance of viable populations of Mojave Desert flora and fauna.

Cultural Importance

As important as this area is ecologically, it is equally significant as a cultural landscape.

  • The entire area within the proposed monument is within the viewshed of Spirit Mountain and considered sacred by the Yuman speaking tribes which include the Mohave, Hualapai, Yavapai, Havasupai, Quechan, Maricopa, Pai Pai, and Kumeyaay. The area is tied to their creation, cosmology, and well-being. Spirit Mountain, called Avi Kwa Ame by the Mojave Tribe, is located on the eastern boundary of the monument, is also a sacred site to the Hopi and Chemehuevi Paiute.
  • Spirit Mountain was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural Property in 1999 in recognition of its religious and cultural importance. The designation is rooted in the Yuman community’s history and is important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community. The Yuman Tribes believe the mountain is the spiritual birthplace of the tribes, the place where ancient ancestors emerged into this world.
  • According to the Mojave Tribe, which serves as caretaker of the mountain and surrounding landscapes on behalf of the other Yuman tribes, the area within the proposed monument is physically and spiritually connected to the viewshed and landscapes that surround Avi Kwa Ame. They believe this connection is through the mountain peaks and ranges surrounding Avi Kwa Ame. The network of trails and cultural sites and the corresponding creation stories links their tribe and religious traditions to this important landscape.
  • Another area of religious and cultural importance to the Mojave and Chemehuevi Tribes religious is the Dead Mountains in the southern portion of the proposed monument. The Dead Mountains contain areas of both sacred and ritual importance that are associated with traditional cosmogony, delineate religious events, embody religious figures, and define burial places.
  • No formal cultural resources surveys have been conducted for the entire proposed Monument lands, but important cultural resources are known to exist, including prehistoric lithic scatters, rock shelters, petroglyphs, and quarry sites. Archeological evidence suggests that humans have used the area for thousands of years. Designating the area a National Monument would preserve the access and connection all of these communities have had for generations and protect the quality of life local residents enjoy today.