- By Darren Thompson
The designation comes less than a month after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) hosted a public meeting on July 18, where citizens commented to leaders from federal agencies about the proposed monument. Native News Online attended and reported on the meeting, held in Flagstaff, Arizona, where an organized effort by Grand Canyon-based Tribes, conservation organizations, and local elected leaders urged the administration to protect lands from extraction around the Grand Canyon to federal leaders.
“Today, I am proud to use my authority under the Antiquities Act to protect almost one million acres of public lands around the Grand Canyon National Park into a new National Monument,” Biden said today at the dedication ceremony for the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument. “We must act fast to conserve this land, of ancestral footprints, for all future generations.”
“Over the years, hundreds of millions of people have traveled the Grand Canyon awed by its majesty, but fewer are aware of its full history. From time immemorial, more than a dozen Tribal Nations have lived, gathered, prayed on these lands, but some one hundred years ago they were forced out. That very act that was used to preserve the Grand Canyon into a National Park was used to deny Indigenous people full access to their homelands.”
In a statement yesterday, the White House said that the designation is a step toward addressing the history of the land dispossession and exclusion of tribal nations and Indigenous peoples in the Grand Canyon area — including the establishment of the Grand Canyon National Park in 1919.
President Biden designated the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906. The Act was established to preserve archeological and historic sites on public lands. Since the Act passed, it has been used close to 300 times to declare public lands into National Monuments. According to the National Park Service, the Grand Canyon National Park and the Acadia National Park are two of the nation’s iconic parks established by the Antiquities Act.
Baaj Nwaavjo translates to “where Indigenous peoples roam” in the Havasupai language, and I’tah Kukveni means “our ancestral footprints” in the Hopi language. The name reflects multiple Tribes and their connection to the land in the region.
Amber Reimondo, Grand Canyon Trust’s Energy Director, confirmed to Native News Online that the national monument designation only applies to federally managed lands. Private and state lands will not be a part of Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument, she said.
The decision is applauded by many, including Chairman of the Havasupai Tribe, Thomas Siyuja Sr.; the Hopi Tribe; Chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, Greg Anderson; Navajo Nation President Nygren; Chairwoman for the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Corrina Bow; the Pueblo of Zuni, President of the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe Johnny Lehi Jr., Chairwoman for the Shivwits Band of Paiutes Hope Silvas, Chairwoman for the Yavapai-Apache Nation Tanya Lewis, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Pueblo Laguna) applauded President Biden’s decision and said, “Today’s action by President Biden makes clear that Native American history is American history. This land is sacred to the many Tribal Nations who have long advocated for its protection, and establishing a national monument demonstrates the importance of recognizing the original stewards of our public lands.”
The efforts to memorialize the lands outside of the Grand Canyon are decades in the making, bringing Tribes, conservation organizations, elected leaders, and communities together to prevent future extraction in the region. Haaland traveled to the Grand Canyon region in May to hear from Tribal leaders, local elected officials, and other community members about the proposed monument.
Tribes have passed resolutions supporting the effort to memorialize lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon National Park. Municipalities, including the City of Flagstaff, have passed resolutions supporting efforts to conserve additional lands in the Grand Canyon region.
The new monument contains more than 3,000 historical and cultural sights significant to many Tribes in the region. In addition, the region is home to diverse wildlife, flora, fauna and a watershed.
The effort to memorialize lands sets aside protected lands for families to hike, fish, and hunt camp, which all contribute to tourism in the state, Biden said. “Preserving these lands is good for the planet; it’s good for the economy and the soul of the Nation,” Biden said.
Today’s announcement is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s America the Beautiful Initiative, which supports locally-led conservation efforts nationwide to conserve and restore 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.
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