Published December 4, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY – In yet another disresepct to American Indian tribes by the federal government, President Donald Trump today signed a presidential proclamation that reduces the size of Bears Ears National Monument, a sprawling region of red rock canyons, by about 85 percent, and cut another area, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size.
Trump made his announcement at the Utah State Capitol — with several hundred Native and ally protestors outside.
Trump’s move is a reversal of the two past Democratic presidents. President Bill Clinton named Grand Staircase-Excalante a national monument on September 18, 1996. President Barack Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument on December 28, 2016.
the Antiquities Act of 1906 grants the president of the United States authority to create national monuments.
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.
American Indian tribes opposed today’s inclusion of Bears Ears.
“The Navajo Nation has made repeated requests to meet with President Trump on this issue. The Bears Ears Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region,” President Begaye said. “The decision to reduce the size of the Monument is being made with no tribal consultation. The Navajo Nation will defend Bears Ears. The reduction in the size of the Monument leaves us no choice but to litigate this decision.”
The President’s action threatens the priceless resources of Bears Ears, according to a statement issued Monday afternoon by the Ute Indian Tribe.
“The Monument isn’t just about a few isolated artifacts. The Monument is a living part of our culture as well as the history and culture of the United States. 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. It’s a sad state of affairs when the President of this great Nation shows manifest disregard for our history and culture as a people, but we are prepared to fight for our rights, and to protect Bears Ears.”
The Navajo Nation will take the lead to oppose Trump’s proclamation in a lawsuit named Navajo Nation v. Zinke. Other tribes, including the Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes, will also participate in the lawsuit.