Navajo Nation President on Bears Ears: “Our People Fought for Bears Ears”

Bears Ears National Monument, located in southern Utah, is a historic and sacred home for Navajo people. Photo by Jonathan Bailey

Published August 31, 2017

WINDOW ROCK – President Russell Begaye strongly opposes the Secretary of the Interior’s expected final recommendation encouraging President Donald Trump to diminish Bears Ears National Monument.

“Our people fought for Bears Ears,” said President Begaye. “Our medicine men, our elders, our young people fought for so long and have a deeply rooted interest in the conservation of these lands along our northern border. We cannot condone a reduction to the monument.”

Bears Ears is Chief Manuelito’s birthplace, a sanctuary for his people to escape the Long Walk, and the location of his sacred burial place. It is a historic and ancestral home for the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Zuni Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Uintah Ouray Ute Tribe. The magnificent landscape is comprised of thousands and thousands of important landmarks and structures, in addition to cultural, historical and scientific objects.

“Navajo history is American history and the sacred land of Bears Ears is of historical and cultural significance to our people who not only continue to survive but also thrive in America,” said Vice President Jonathan Nez. “Our people continue to use the land for ceremonies, family gatherings, dances and healing.”

The office of the President and Vice President joins grassroots organization Utah Diné Bikéyah, Utah Navajo Chapter leadership, and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition in answering Zinke’s expected final recommendation to reduceBears Ears with a resounding no.

Utah Diné Bikéyah conducted years of research to identify the cultural and historical resources of Bears Ears and reignited a lengthy and robust public process advocating for the protection of the region. Combined with some 80 years of lobbying from tribal leadership and assistance from sovereign tribal governments, the Utah Navajo organization was successful in convincing President Barack Obama to properly use the Antiquities Act to designate BearsEars as a national monument on Dec. 28, 2016.

Yet the 1.3 million acre designation for Bears Ears came through a compromise that took into consideration Utah and San Juan County’s concerns as well as those of the five coalition tribes. These efforts are rooted in the democratic process and this must not be ignored, nor marginalized, nor forgotten in times to come.

Every square mile of Bears Ears was hard-won and there is no need for further reductions.

“The Bears Ears region is not a series of isolated objects, but a connected, living landscape that must be protected,” said President Begaye. “You cannot reduce the size without harming the whole. I urge President Trump to leave the monument as is.”

On behalf of the Navajo Nation, the Begaye-Nez administration will challenge any action to reduce or revoke the monument.

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