Public Progam

  • Decolonizing the Fence at Cementerio del Barrio de los Lipanes
    Christina Hernandez, Joseph Kunkel, Xoxi Nayapiltzin, Oscar Rodriguez, and Mayrah Udvardi
    Agave Festival, Marfa
    Jun 03, 2023 to Jun 04, 2023
    Big Bend Conservation Alliance

Lipan Apache Cemetery, Presidio, TX, 2023. Photo: MASS Design Group

Cementerio del Barrio de los Lipanes (Cemetery of the Lipan Neighborhood) is a sacred site to the Lipan Apache Tribe located in Presidio, Texas. The site became the final resting place of Lipan who settled in the immediate vicinity beginning in the 1790s. Through the 1960s, the burial mound lay undisturbed with the graves clearly marked by individual cairn barrows, but by the 1970s residential encroachment and urbanization desecrated the site. Recently, Big Bend Conservation Alliance partnered with the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas to commission MASS Design Group—an award-winning non-profit architecture and design firm whose mission is to research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity—to create a structure that would protect this landmark. The resulting design, which is currently under construction, works to instill acknowledgment of and respect for Indigenous presence in the Chihuahuan Desert by creating a place-specific design language that focuses on sacredness, gathering, and landback.

Christina Hernandez is a direct descendent of the original Peace Settlement families of La Junta/El Mulato—Aguilar and Ornelas; and is a direct descendent of Felix Aguilar, Lipan Apache leader of El Mulato. She is a member of the Lipan Apache Tribe. She was honored by Jumano Elders and the Cuelcahende Band of the Lipan Apache Tribe as Guardian of the Ancestors and an Eagle Staff Bearer. Hernandez is the firm operations manager for Rigby Slack, PLLC. She has a master's of art in planning and urban development and she serves on the National Board of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign sitting on the finance and fiversity, equity, and inclusion committees. She spent her childhood with her family elders caring for her family cemetery now known as Cementerio del Barrio de los Lipanes in Presidio.

Joseph Kunkel, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, is a principal at MASS Design Group and is the director of MASS’s Sustainable Native Communities Design Lab based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a community designer and educator, his work explores how architecture, planning, and construction can be leveraged to positively impact the built and unbuilt environments within Indian Country. Kunkel’s early work focused on the research of exemplary Native American Indian housing projects and processes nationwide. This research work has developed into emerging best practices within Indian Country, leading to an online Healthy Homes Road Map for affordable tribal housing development, funded by HUD’s Policy,
Development, and Research Office.

Xoxi Nayapiltzin is a native of Alpine and descendant of aboriginal People of La Junta. Nayapiltzin is presently involved in repatriating eleven ancestral remains from seven different sites in Presidio County; remains will be reburied in the Cementerio del Barrio de los Lipanes. He studies petroglyphs in the Jornada Mogollon cultural region.

Oscar Rodriguez was born and raised in Ojinaga, West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico. He has lived in and out of Texas since he graduated from Ector High School in Odessa in the late-1970s, including a couple of years in the 1990s when he lived in Marfa and taught at Sul Ross State University. Rodruguez is also an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Tribe and an avid researcher of Native history in Texas and New Mexico—specifically in the La Junta region. Rodriguez hosts a radio show on Marfa Public Radio, Caló: A Borderland Dialect, a series that honors the Texas borderlands patois commonly called Caló. He sits on the Big Bend Conservation Alliance board of directors.

Mayrah Udvardi is a senior architect based in MASS Design Group's Santa Fe office. Her work has ranged in scale and typology but remains grounded in a deep commitment to living ecosystems, environmental justice, and architecture's role in equitably redefining territory. Prior to MASS, she worked with Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative on building design
and technical capacity in Indian Country, with Urban-Think Tank on community-led shack upgrading in South Africa, with Global Citizens for Sustainable Development on migrant housing in India, and with Enterprise Community Partners on documenting best practices in affordable housing.

The Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA) works to conserve the living heritage and unique natural and cultural resources of the greater Big Bend region of Texas. BBCA formed in 2015 as a group of citizens concerned about the impact of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline—the first oil and gas infrastructure in the Far West Texas region. Today, BBCA provides opportunities for public education and engagement in the areas of land, dark skies, water, and culture. Projects use an equity and environmental justice lens to guide the work and include protecting an Indigenous sacred site, coordinating access to natural resources among communities that may have less opportunity, youth education programs, and programs addressing regional food security.