Tribes to Co-Manage Bears Ears National Monument
In a positive step forward for government-to-government relations, on Saturday, June 18, 2022, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Hopi Nation, and Pueblo of Zuni signed an historic, one-of-a-kind agreement to share management responsibilities for the Bears Ears National Monument. The tribal coalition will work with the federal government to address land planning, management, and conservation, and to protect traditions “that are part of the tribal nations’ way of life on these lands.”
Recognizing the importance of Bears Ears (UT) to the region’s tribal nations—and all people who value the area’s unique history, resources, and features— protections were established in 2016 after years of negotiations, input, and advocacy on behalf of tribes, states, non-governmental organizations, and the public. Those hard-earned protections were removed in 2017. The area subsequently saw a rash of exploitation and abuse by vandals, commercial interests, and misinformed tourists.
Thankfully, on October 8, 2021, President Biden signed a proclamation, restoring protections for the Bears Ears National Monument. The Native American Rights Fund represents the Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and we applauded this much-needed action. NARF Staff Attorney Matthew Campbell reacted to President Biden’s action, “President Biden’s proclamation will roll back unpopular and illegal efforts to rip away needed protections for these ancestral lands and cultural resources. The region’s Native Nations joined together and fought long and hard to safeguard Bears Ears. We look forward to seeing one of the country’s most sacred landscapes properly protected, and we look forward to seeing that it happens in a culturally appropriate way.”
Importantly, the Bears Ears National Monument was the first national monument proposed by a coalition of sovereign tribal nations. For years, five tribes—the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Indian Tribe, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe—led the effort to establish the Bears Ears National Monument in an area that is not only rich in history, but is still used for cultural and religious purposes. More recently, the Tribes fought tirelessly against the Trump Administration’s threat to revoke protections for the area. Trump’s revocation of the monument to 15% of its designated size allowed industry and individuals to exploit and destroy a place so wondrous that it has drawn people to it for more than 13,000 years.