Tribal Leaders Extremely Disappointed over Anticipated Action by President Trump to Shrink Bears Ears National Monument


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Seals of the Tribes in the Bears Ears Intertribal CoalitionMoab, UT (October 30, 2017) Leaders of the five Tribes that advocated for creation of the Bears Ears National Monument expressed indignation over President Trump’s anticipated unlawful and unilateral move to shrink Bears Ears National Monument.  Despite multiple requests from tribal leaders to meet with him on Bears Ears, it appears that President Trump has made up his mind and plans to act without meeting with the Tribes whose resources the monument is intended to protect. This is in keeping with Secretary Zinke’s failure to adequately consult and engage with the Tribes on Bears Ears.

“President Trump’s illegal proposal is a shameful attack on Tribes, and it will not stand,” stated Carleton Bowekaty, Zuni councilman.  “The President’s proposal is without legal authority and without respect for the Native Americans that worked for decades to protect these resources.  His proposal is a strong statement to Tribes across the nation that Native American values and interests are not important to the Trump administration.”

“Bears Ears isn’t just about a few artifacts in isolated locations. Our cultures are still here and still thriving,” said Shaun Chapoose, member of the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee. “The Bears Ears region is a cultural landscape – a place to nurture our families in our traditions. The monument came about through government-to-government negotiations with the previous administration, state and local officials. The President’s proposed unilateral action pleases a few powerful Utah Politicians.  It’s a sad state of affairs, but we are prepared to fight for our rights, and to protect Bears Ears.”

“We have direct ties to the Bears Ears region, and this area is immensely important to us.  We wanted to educate President Trump about our connection to Bears Ears, but he ignored our request,” said Harold Cuthair, Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Chairman.  “We will not stand by and let this happen without a fight.”  Cuthair continued.

“President Trump’s arbitrary proposal to eliminate protections for sacred lands leaves tens of thousands of historical and cultural sites vulnerable,” said Alfred Lomahquahu, Vice-Chairman of the Hopi Tribe.  “The monument was already greatly reduced from what the Tribes originally requested.  Now, without consultation and without notification, President Trump is preparing to break the government’s promise to work with Tribes to protect the homeland of our ancestors.”

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on The Long Walk, but we came back,” said Davis Filfred, a Navajo Nation Council Delegate who represents five of the nine Utah Chapters (county-like governments of the Navajo Nation). “The President’s proposal is an attack on Tribes and will be remembered as equally disgraceful —but once again we will be back. We know how to persist; we know how to fight; and we will fight to defend Bears Ears.”

Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, LoRenzo Bates, further noted that “The recent reports indicating the administration’s intent to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument are very troubling and disappointing. Every step of the way, the Navajo Nation Council has been consistent in our support for the national monument designation and consistent in our opposition to any effort to reduce the national monument. As I’ve previously stated, we will challenge any action that attempts to undo or reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument.”

Bears Ears has been home to Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni people for countless generations. The national monument took more than 80 years to designate. The original proclamation by President Obama acknowledges a cultural landscape rich in antiquities, with hundreds of thousands of archaeological and cultural sites sacred to dozens of tribes. President Trump’s proposal to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument leaves tens of thousands of sacred sites vulnerable to looting and grave robbing—the very threats the Antiquities Act was designed to protect against—as well as to fossil fuel development and uranium mining.

Read about NARF’s work on the Bears Ears National Monument.