December 28, 2016

Statement from the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition on the Designation of Bears Ears National Monument

Bears Ears, Utah (December 28, 2016) – Today, President Barack Obama designated Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah using his authority under the Antiquities Act. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition — a partnership between the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni governments — applauds the President’s action to preserve lands for Native people and for future generations of Americans.

Bears Ears National Monument lies between Canyonlands National Park and the San Juan River, and is named for twin buttes that resemble a bear raising its head above the horizon. This is a cultural landscape rich in antiquities, with hundreds of thousands of archaeological and cultural sites that are sacred to dozens of tribes.

Bears Ears has been home to Hopi, Navajo, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni for countless generations.  Our ancestors lived, hunted, gathered, prayed, and built civilizations here, and it remains vital today as a place of subsistence and spirituality. Our oral traditions speak of this area, and of certain spiritual resources found only there. The protection of the Bears Ears cultural landscape is powerful medicine for healing – of the land, of plants and animals, and for all people. The Bears Ears National Monument will also ensure continued access to tribal ceremonies, firewood and herb collection, hunting, grazing and outdoor recreation.

Our Tribal leaders issued special praise for President Obama’s “visionary” and “courageous” decision to require strong federal-tribal collaborative management at Bears Ears.  Under this unprecedented system, federal and tribal resource managers will work closely together to manage a large unit of federal land. “We are grateful for President Obama’s brave action today,” said David Filfred, Navajo Nation Council Delegate representing Aneth, Teec Nos Pos, Red Mesa and Mexican Water Chapters in Utah. “For the first time in history, a president has used the Antiquities Act to honor the request of Tribal Nations to protect our sacred sites. In doing so, he has given the opportunity for all Americans to come together and heal.”

“As a coalition of five sovereign Native American Tribes in the region, we are confident that today’s announcement of collaborative management will protect a cultural landscape that we have known since time immemorial,” said Alfred Lomahquahu, Vice Chairman of Hopi Tribe and Co-Chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. “Our connection with this land is deeply tied to our identities, traditional knowledge, histories, and cultures. We look forward to working with the current and future administrations to fully and properly administer these lands for all to enjoy.”

“Today’s announcement honors and elevates the voices of the Tribes,” said Carleton Bowekaty, Zuni councilman and Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Co-Chair. “Thirty sovereign Tribal Nations passed resolutions in support of monument protection at Bears Ears, as did the National Congress of American Indians. Support for this monument has been overwhelming in Indian Country, and we thank President Obama for hearing our call for permanent protection of this living cultural landscape.”

“The designation of the Bears Ears National Monument is a victory not just for Native Americans, but for all who love and whose lives are intertwined with this remarkable place,” stated Lomahquahu.