Celebrating Bears Ears National Monument
On Saturday, January 7, tribal leaders and members joined grassroots activists and local residents from the Four Corners region to celebrate the historic Bears Ears National Monument, designated on December 28. The event was held in Monument Valley, Utah, and was attended by members of the Friends Grassroots Network–including representatives from Friends of Cedar Mesa and Utah Diné Bikéyah–as well as CLF staff.
From Native News Online, “Hundreds Turn Out For Celebration Of Bears Ears National Monument”: Elected leaders from the five Tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition were met by cheers from a diverse audience of Native and non-Native people of all ages, who traveled through the first snow of the new year to celebrate the historic designation of Bears Ears National Monument. “I am thankful from the bottom of my heart,” grinned Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred, who represents five Utah Navajo districts. Delegate Filfred introduced legislation this week in support of Bears Ears National Monument, which the entire Navajo Nation Council passed unanimously on Thursday, January 5.”
Below, two of the Bears Ears National Monument’s younger supporters, who will grow up enjoying and using a Bears Ears region that remains protected and untrammeled, and having a voice in its management.
From Fox 13 in Salt Lake City, “Hundreds Attend Celebration of Bears Ears National Monument”: Hundreds gathered in Monument Valley Saturday to show their support for President Barack Obama’s decision to create the 1.3 million-acre national monument in the Beehive State. Russell Begaye, President of the Navajo Nation, said they vow to protect the monument, which he said was created partly as a result of the activism of those who attended Saturday’s event. “It’s a great day to celebrate,” he said during his remarks. “This is what we all did. This is what working together is all about. We are a powerful voice.”
Some attendees even learned a thing or two. According to one attendee who encountered a monument opponent at the celebration, the man echoed a common myth about the monument and asked where he and his family were going to get their firewood, “now that Bears Ears is all closed off.” After giving the man some facts about what what the monument does and does not do, he changed his opposition to support and stated: “We need to keep the drill rigs off of there.”
The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service will jointly oversee the new monument. The proclamation says management will include “guidance and recommendations” from a commission made up of elected officers from each of the coalition’s five tribes: Hopi Nation, Zuni Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray.
As High Country News reports in “Bears Ears A Go…”: The agencies shall “carefully and fully consider integrating the traditional and historical knowledge” of the commission into management decisions. This gives tribes an unprecedented amount of say over their ancestral lands that lie in the public domain yet outside the boundaries of their reservations.
As Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation said, “By protecting Gold Butte and Bears Ears as national monuments, President Obama has honored Native American Tribes’ request to safeguard their ancestral lands. Bears Ears National Monument will ensure the elevated role for Tribes in management that they have long deserved.”
Photos: Top, Tim Peterson; second from top, John Wallin/CLF; bottom and second from bottom, Mark Maryboy