Skip to content Skip to navigation

An Unprecedented Coalition of Five Sovereign Tribal Nations

Nov 15 2016

Anna Elza Brady

By Anna Elza Brady


Gavin Noyes
Anna Elza Brady is the Policy & Communications Strategist for Utah Diné Bikéyah, a Native-led nonprofit organization that has been working to protect Bears Ears since 2010.

In the wake of this week’s deeply fractured general election, millions of Americans are grasping to figure out what can be done to heal the gaping divide in this country. Millions more are wondering what will become of our public lands, our conservation legacy, and our indigenous leaders who are standing up for the integrity of people and Nature. 

The answer may lie in an area of the country Wallace Stegner once called “the emptiest part of America.” The tribally-led Bears Ears National Monument proposal presents an historic opportunity for President Obama to fulfill his legacy of honoring our nation’s incredible diversity through conservation of public lands. In the process, Bears Ears may have something profound to teach all Americans about healing through listening. 

In remote southeastern Utah lies one of the most intact wild ecosystems in the contiguous United States, as well as tens of thousands of America’s best-preserved, yet unprotected, archaeological sites. Fanning up from the confluence of the San Juan and Colorado Rivers – an area long considered sacred by Native peoples of this region – stretches a landscape of deep sandstone canyons, high red rock mesas, aspen-studded mountainsides, and wide turquoise sky. Rising from this swath of desert plateau looms a pair of twin buttes, visible for miles in all directions. In every Native language of the region, this horizon-defining feature is known as “Bears Ears.”

What appeared stark and deserted to Stegner, however, is intimate and beloved to others. For grassroots Native American people who have inhabited this region since time immemorial and who still use this landscape for ceremony and subsistence, Bears Ears is hallowed ancestral homeland. Tucked among the folds and promontories rest an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites, regarded by researchers as world-class objects of scientific inquiry. For Tribes, these sites are quite literally the dwelling places of the Ancestors, whose spirits are still very much alive in this landscape.

Tim Peterson

Today an unprecedented coalition of five sovereign tribal nations – Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, and Uinta Ouray Ute – have united to call on President Obama to protect Bears Ears as national monument, for the benefit of future generations of all people. Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, presidents of the United States possess executive authority to proclaim national monuments in order protect historic landmarks. Of the 124 national monuments dedicated since the 1906 passage of the Antiquities Act, Bears Ears would be the first truly Native American national monument.

Bears Ears marks the first time in history that Tribes have called on a president of the United States to designate a national monument in honor of Native American heritage. Ironically, the Antiquities Act was originally passed in response to rampant looting of Native American ancestral sites in the Four Corners region, not far from Bears Ears. Today Bears Ears faces the same threat; a few years ago it was the site of the largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact theft in U.S. history. Despite its origin, the Antiquities Act has never before been invoked by the indigenous peoples of this continent, whose cultural relics the law was intended to protect.

A few years ago Bears Ears was the site of the largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact theft in U.S. history. Despite its origin, the Antiquities Act has never before been invoked by the indigenous peoples of this continent, whose cultural relics the law was intended to protect.

More than 220,000 individuals have signed petitions and handwritten letters in support of the Bears Ears proposal—including thousands of local Native Americans who depend on this landscape for livelihood and identity. Allies include veterans, labor organizations, trade associations, outdoor businesses, faith leaders, artists, writers, paleontologists, and archaeologists. These constituencies have added the considerable heft of their support to the five Tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, backed by 20 additional Tribes and the National Congress of American Indians, representing more than 300 Tribes across the United States.

Tribes are offering President Obama a gift. Bears Ears will embrace indigenous ecological knowledge, and it will complete the Obama legacy of working to diversify our nation’s parks and monuments to reflect all the history and cultures of America. In so doing, Bears Ears National Monument will lead the way toward healing our nation, through listening.

The 1.9 million acre Bears Ears National Monument proposed for federal lands in southeastern Utah. View a detailed map of the proposed area.


 

Yes

Jim Enote
Zuni farmer and director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center

Reading
Yes

Anna Elza Brady
Strategist for Utah Diné Bikéyah, a Native-led nonprofit organization

No

Joe Lyman
Blanding town council member and third generation resident

 

Submit a Comment

We'd like to know what you think. We will not share your email address or add you to any lists. If you'd like to be notified about new blog posts and news from the Center, you can join our mailing list.

You will receive emails no more than once a week. We will not share your information.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

 

...& the Best

Western Articles and Media Elsewhere
Compiled by Alan Propp

March 15, 2017

A U.S. Appeals Court this week upheld an Indian tribe’s right to the groundwater beneath its reservation. This decision, which has significant implications for the future of water management in the West and beyond, signals Native Americans' willingness to protect their water supplies using the courts. While the battle will likely continue in higher courts, the ruling remains a major victory. Circle of Blue

Ecologists are exploring radically new techniques to manage tree-covered land in the Sierras, as pressure on forest health increases from a number of directions. Researchers now endorse a “toolbox” approach incorporating resistance, resilience, and realignment to combat stressors from heat waves to insect plagues. This is proving to be a difficult change for forest managers using long-developed management schemes. Yale Environment 360

The Crescent Dunes solar thermal project is the largest energy station of its kind in the world. It delivers power to NVEnergy, which serves the majority of Nevada’s population. Large-scale solar thermal plants, whose association with harm to wildlife has made them controversial, nonetheless represent a massive step forward in renewable energy’s development in the west. Alec Ernest presents a documentary film showing the scale and challenges of Crescent Dunes. In related news, Nevada's 50-year-old Reid Gardner power plant officially stopped burning coal this week. KCET

Hear from western readers about some of their experiences in the American West. High Country News asked for uncomfortable truths, encounters, and revelations from readers in the West, and published a sampling of their responses. High Country News

While most people see California at the forefront of the fight against fossil fuel interests, “Big Oil” still holds a large sway in this state of progressive and environmental values. Both politically and economically, oil interests have a massive stake and wield a large influence in the California’s decisions, which may test the state’s role as a climate leader in the years to come. Reveal

Some energy billionaires are planning bold new clean energy initiatives in Western states. From California to Wyoming, the energy landscape is shifting, and Sammy Roth from the Desert Sun evaluates the costs and benefits of the coming changes. This podcast explores his story. Sea Change Radio

February 9, 2017

Rising temperatures in California could soon spur a shift in crops for Central Valley farmers. While rising winter temperatures could benefit some agricultural commodities, others (such as walnuts, cherries, and pistachios) will suffer. Within the next few years, farmers must either find technologies that allow these trees to flourish, or leave abandon them and turn to warmer-weather crops. Valley Public Radio via NPR

The energy mix in the West continues to shift towards sustainable sources – the opening of Tesla’s battery farm in Southern California could be followed by the closing of the West’s biggest coal plant in Arizona. The Aliso Canyon gas leak led Southern California Edison to search for more reliable energy sources, opening the door for lithium-ion battery storage provided by Tesla and others. Meanwhile, declining natural gas prices and rising costs for coal electricity production are making many coal plants — like the Navajo Generating Station — economically infeasible. The Guardian Grist Grand Canyon Trust

The expansion of predator populations is causing a kaleidoscope of reactions across various western states as locals struggle to balance conservation and ranching concerns. In Oregon and beyond, the recovery of wolves may mean that individuals (such as a high-profile wolf by the name of OR7) may lose their novelty, making them more expendable. Meanwhile, Colorado is cracking down on black bears and cougars in order to protect its thin mule deer population, an effort that has not been implemented without controversy. High Country News onEarth

California is increasingly turning to an unorthodox source for drinking water: recycled sewage water. Since 2014, the state has aggressively increased funding for wastewater treatment and recycling. Once produced largely for non-potable use – on landscaping, for instance – effluent is increasingly purified intensively and used for drinking water and aquifer replenishment. This technique is spreading despite the difficulty of the purification process. Undark

Biologists and fisheries managers in Oregon have begun using eDNA to find threatened species in river systems through water sampling. This novel technique uses highly sensitive water sampling techniques to find the DNA that endangered creatures shed from their skin, urine, and feces. With more refinement, the approach has the potential to revolutionize fisheries management, making it cheaper and easier to monitor species in waterways throughout the western United States. NPR

January 31, 2017

President Barack Obama is gone now, but what sort of mark did he leave on the West’s climate, energy, and lands? In the “West Obsessed” podcast, High Country News covers the wide-ranging and (for the most part) positive impacts that happened on his watch, including the development of renewable energy, the first far-reaching actions to address including the development of renewable energy, the first far-reaching actions to address climate change, and the last-minute designation of large federally protected conservation areas. High Country News

In the vein of the last administration’s conservation efforts, learn more about his recent expansion of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. This stunningly beautiful protected region contains one of the most ecologically rich areas in North America, with species ranging from northern spotted owls to rare butterflies, and remains an important area for biodiversity research. While contested by some, Cascade-Siskiyou’s expansion is hailed by many as a victory for the conservation of large, intact, and critical habitat areas in the United States. Undark

Stanford’s new data visualization project, called “Follow the Money,” allows users to track the destination counties for a variety of different environment-related funds. Find your county and see how much it has received through the years from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Forest Service Revenue, the Federal Mineral Leasing Act, and more. Or, choose a fund and track how its payments have changed through the years, such as the dramatic increase in mining and drilling funding for Utah and Colorado in the mi-90s. Stanford Spatial History Project | CESTA

The consequences of the Aliso Canyon gas leak in Southern California were far-reaching over the last two years. The leak emitted massive amounts of methane and toxic chemicals into the atmosphere for months before the SCGC was able to get it under control. This environmental and health disaster, essentially invisible to the naked eye, has united communities against the reopening of the facility and given a regional boost to a relatively new and under-tested form of energy technology: batteries. The New York Times

New collaborative research on the Yellowstone River reveals the complex consequences that human activities can have on the rivers in the region. The combined effects of these actions - which include diversion for irrigation, erosion control, and the placement of boulder breakwaters - weaken the river system and make it vulnerable to stressors like fish-killing parasites. Yale Environment 360

As California’s extended drought continues, tensions remain high over water rights and who is entitled to the usage of various water sources. The state has imposed increasingly strict consumption quotas, and has begun to turn more attention to the largest water users in the state. This article explores the developing energy efficiency technology and research efforts in the region, with a specific focus on the state’s economically critical and most extensive water consumption industry: agriculture. The Desert Sun

‘...& the West’ Blog