Categories
Debate & the West Native Nations & the West Public Lands & the West

An Unprecedented Coalition of Five Sovereign Tribal Nations

Photo courtesy Anna Elza Brady

By Anna Elza Brady


Gavin Noyes
Anna Elza Brady is the Policy & Communications Strategist for Utah Diné Bikéyah, a Native-led nonprofit organization that has been working to protect Bears Ears since 2010.

In the wake of this week’s deeply fractured general election, millions of Americans are grasping to figure out what can be done to heal the gaping divide in this country. Millions more are wondering what will become of our public lands, our conservation legacy, and our indigenous leaders who are standing up for the integrity of people and Nature. 

The answer may lie in an area of the country Wallace Stegner once called “the emptiest part of America.” The tribally-led Bears Ears National Monument proposal presents an historic opportunity for President Obama to fulfill his legacy of honoring our nation’s incredible diversity through conservation of public lands. In the process, Bears Ears may have something profound to teach all Americans about healing through listening. 

In remote southeastern Utah lies one of the most intact wild ecosystems in the contiguous United States, as well as tens of thousands of America’s best-preserved, yet unprotected, archaeological sites. Fanning up from the confluence of the San Juan and Colorado Rivers – an area long considered sacred by Native peoples of this region – stretches a landscape of deep sandstone canyons, high red rock mesas, aspen-studded mountainsides, and wide turquoise sky. Rising from this swath of desert plateau looms a pair of twin buttes, visible for miles in all directions. In every Native language of the region, this horizon-defining feature is known as “Bears Ears.”

What appeared stark and deserted to Stegner, however, is intimate and beloved to others. For grassroots Native American people who have inhabited this region since time immemorial and who still use this landscape for ceremony and subsistence, Bears Ears is hallowed ancestral homeland. Tucked among the folds and promontories rest an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites, regarded by researchers as world-class objects of scientific inquiry. For Tribes, these sites are quite literally the dwelling places of the Ancestors, whose spirits are still very much alive in this landscape.

Tim Peterson

Today an unprecedented coalition of five sovereign tribal nations – Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, and Uinta Ouray Ute – have united to call on President Obama to protect Bears Ears as national monument, for the benefit of future generations of all people. Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, presidents of the United States possess executive authority to proclaim national monuments in order protect historic landmarks. Of the 124 national monuments dedicated since the 1906 passage of the Antiquities Act, Bears Ears would be the first truly Native American national monument.

Bears Ears marks the first time in history that Tribes have called on a president of the United States to designate a national monument in honor of Native American heritage. Ironically, the Antiquities Act was originally passed in response to rampant looting of Native American ancestral sites in the Four Corners region, not far from Bears Ears. Today Bears Ears faces the same threat; a few years ago it was the site of the largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact theft in U.S. history. Despite its origin, the Antiquities Act has never before been invoked by the indigenous peoples of this continent, whose cultural relics the law was intended to protect.

A few years ago Bears Ears was the site of the largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact theft in U.S. history. Despite its origin, the Antiquities Act has never before been invoked by the indigenous peoples of this continent, whose cultural relics the law was intended to protect.

More than 220,000 individuals have signed petitions and handwritten letters in support of the Bears Ears proposal—including thousands of local Native Americans who depend on this landscape for livelihood and identity. Allies include veterans, labor organizations, trade associations, outdoor businesses, faith leaders, artists, writers, paleontologists, and archaeologists. These constituencies have added the considerable heft of their support to the five Tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, backed by 20 additional Tribes and the National Congress of American Indians, representing more than 300 Tribes across the United States.

Tribes are offering President Obama a gift. Bears Ears will embrace indigenous ecological knowledge, and it will complete the Obama legacy of working to diversify our nation’s parks and monuments to reflect all the history and cultures of America. In so doing, Bears Ears National Monument will lead the way toward healing our nation, through listening.

The 1.9 million acre Bears Ears National Monument proposed for federal lands in southeastern Utah. View a detailed map of the proposed area.

 

Yes
Jim Enote
Zuni farmer and director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center
Reading
Yes
Anna Elza Brady
Strategist for Utah Diné Bikéyah, a Native-led nonprofit organization
No
Joe Lyman
Blanding town council member and third generation resident

 

Newsletter

Sign up to keep up with our latest articles, sent no more than once per week (see an example).

Your information will not be shared.


Staff and Contributors

Felicity Barringer

Lead writer

A national environmental correspondent during the last decade of her 28 years at The New York Times, Felicity provided an in-depth look at the adoption of AB 32, California’s landmark climate-change bill after covering state’s carbon reduction policies. MORE »

Geoff McGhee

Associate editor

Geoff McGhee specializes in interactive data visualization and multimedia storytelling. He is a veteran of the multimedia and infographics staffs at The New York Times, Le Monde and ABCNews.com. MORE »

Rani Chor

Editorial Assistant

Rani Chor is the & the West editorial assistant for winter 2024. She has worked as the university news desk editor and public safety beat reporter for the Stanford Daily.

‘& the West’ is published by the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, which is dedicated to research, teaching, and journalism about the past, present, and future of the North American West.

Bruce E. Cain

Faculty Director

Kate Gibson

Program Manager

west.stanford.edu

Past Contributors

Syler Peralta-Ramos
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2022
sylerpr@stanford.edu
 
Anna McNulty
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2021
annam23@stanford.edu
 
Melina Walling
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2021
mwalling@stanford.edu
 
Benek Robertson
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2021
benekrobertson@stanford.edu
 
Maya Burke
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2020
mburke3@stanford.edu
 
Kate Selig
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2020

 
Francisco L. Nodarse
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2020
fnodarse@stanford.edu
 
Devon R. Burger
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2020
devonburger@stanford.edu
 
Madison Pobis
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2019
mpobis@stanford.edu
 
Sierra Garcia
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2019

 
Danielle Nguyen
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2019
Carolyn P. Rice
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2019
carolyn4@stanford.edu
 
Rebecca Nelson
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2018
rnelson3@stanford.edu
 
Emily Wilder
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2018
ewilder2@stanford.edu
 
Alessandro Hall
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2018
ahall2@stanford.edu 
Josh Lappen
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2017
@jlappen1
jlappen@stanford.edu 
Natasha Mmonatau
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2017
@NatashaMmonatau
 
Alan Propp
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2017
@alanpropp

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

css.php