Published December 6, 2017
BLUFF, UTAH – Leaders of the Bears Ears Commission of Tribes (Commission) expressed dismay at Monday’s action by President Trump that attempts to revoke and replace Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah by creating two different, smaller national monuments that reduce protections for over one million acres of land. The Commission is the legal body of tribal representatives chartered by the Bears Ears National Monument proclamation of December 28, 2016. The proclamation charged the Commission with working with the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service to ensure that the management of the Bears Ears National Monument reflects tribal expertise and traditional knowledge.
“The Bears Ears Commission of Tribes holds a vision of a Bears Ears National Monument that is a landscape of healing for all Americans and a symbol of Native American and community engagement in our nation’s public lands.” said James Adakai, Navajo Nation Oljato Chapter President. “Today’s actions fundamentally undermine this vision, tribal sovereignty, and the cultural heritage of all Americans.”
“Because we are Commissioners, any decisions made regarding the fate of Bears Ears National Monument must involve us – the president is required by law to do so, but he did not involve us,” said Terry Knight, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. “In the decision today, President Trump has dishonored our longstanding ties to this cultural landscape and the government to government relationship that our sovereign tribes have with the United States government.”
“Secretary Zinke and Utah politicians say that they have talked to tribes about the president’s decision, but none of our Council leaders, executives, or our Commissioners were contacted,” said Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, Director of the Hopi Tribe Cultural Preservation Office. “Working with tribes means leaving Bears Ears intact and supporting the Commission’s efforts to bring our tribal expertise to the management of the Bears Ears National Monument – not leaving our important sites of pilgrimage, prayer, and the homes and graves of our ancestors unprotected.”
“Bears Ears National Monument has brought much joy to our people,” said Carleton Bowekaty, Pueblo of Zuni Tribal Councilman. “Our responsibility is to move forward as collaborative managers of this sacred landscape, and to protect our heritage for all Americans for the benefit of all people. We will continue to do so until this matter is resolved by the courts.”
The members of the Bears Ears Commission of Tribes are: Leiganwisiwma, Director of the Hopi Tribe Cultural Preservation Office; Davis Filfred, Navajo Nation Delegate and James Adakai, Navajo Nation Oljato Chapter President; Shaun Chapoose, Member of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee; Terry Knight, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; and Carleton Bowekaty, Zuni Tribal Councilman.