Chama Valley is a Gateway to the Northern Rio Grande Heritage Area, where "Spanish, Tiwa, and Apache are languages still spoken. A Cradle of Settlement that encompasses a mosaic of cultures, the Northern Rio Grande Heritage Area is home to the Jicarilla Apache, 8 Tewa and Tiwa Native Pueblos, and communities established by the descendants of Spanish colonists who settled in the area beginning in 1598, a generation before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. Residents in the region continue to speak their native languages along with English, and to share the traditions and practices of their ancestors in a cultural expression that leaves a strong imprint on residents and visitors alike. Indeed, visitors are advised that most of the place names and references are in Spanish, with Spanish pronunciations."
"To conserve and protect the culture and traditions that define New Mexico and its unique contribution to the culture and heritage of the United States, Congress designated over 10,000 square miles of northern New Mexico as the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area (NRGNHA). The Area includes Taos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties. Eight pueblos (Taos, Picuris, Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Nambe, Pojoaque, and Tesuque) and the Jicarilla Apache Nation are all sustained within the Heritage Area. The three-county Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area extends from I-40 in the center of New Mexico north to the Colorado border and east to west between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountain ranges, crossing the Continental Divide in the process. The Heritage Area takes its name from the river that flows through its heart -- the Río Grande del Norte - but the area also is strongly defined by its mountains, mesas, and high-desert terrain, as much as by the rivers and streams running through. Major communities within the Heritage Area are the towns of Taos and Española, and the City of Santa Fe, which is the oldest Capital City in the United States.
"On October 12, 2006, Congress passed Public Law 109-338, which established the Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area, comprising the counties of Río Arriba, Santa Fe, and Taos in north-central New Mexico. Heritage Area designation culminated nearly 20 years of community efforts to identify ways to conserve and sustain the area's life ways, languages, folk arts, and sacred spaces, as well as, its architecture and spectacular natural and scenic landscape."
What is a National Heritage Area?
"A National Heritage Area is a place recognized by the United States Congress for its unique contribution to the American experience. In a National Heritage Area, natural, cultural, historical, and recreational resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. These patterns make National Heritage Areas representative of the national experience through the physical features that remain and traditions that have evolved in these areas.
Creation of a National Heritage Area is primarily an outgrowth of local grass-roots efforts. Local supporters bring a proposed heritage area to the attention of legislators and advocate for its passage while working with the National Park Service to determine whether it meets the designation criteria. Once the National Heritage Area achieves its designation, a locally controlled management entity guides the development of a management plan, and then coordinates the many partners in the implementation of the plan's projects and programs. "