Patagonia has joined forces with members of the Bears Ears Coalition, including strong Navajo voices, to define the many practical and spiritual motivations for protecting this cultural landscape. In a Patagonia blog, Willie Grayeyes writes of the longstanding cultural ties of the Navajo to the region. Willie is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Utah Diné Bikéyah, a Navajo organization that has been involved since the beginning, quietly building momentum for the Bears Ears Proposal with input from other conservation groups and Native American voices.
The Navajo, or Diné call the Bears Ears “Náhonidzó,” meaning “the escaping place” because they used its winding canyons to hideout from the oppressive Long Walk of 1864. Today, the many traditional uses like herbal collection and hunting on Bears Ears land represent the way of life to the Navajo people.
The Utah Diné Bikéyah, like other members of the Coalition, are painfully aware of the pressing need to designate Bears Ears as a National Conservation Area or National Monument. “Even today… pothunters steal from Native cultures objects that are not theirs to possess or sell,” Grayeyes says in a reminder that the fight must continue. “The Bears Ears simply needs better stewardship and stronger protection from threats such as mineral development and looting by pothunters.”