his proposal is named for the Bears Ears Buttes – two prominent landforms that rise high above Cedar Mesa. They are a local landmark, visible from the south and east some sixty miles away, and they are so named because resemble the ears of a Bear poking its head above the horizon. Many tribes have stories and legends in our oral traditions about these Buttes. It is richly represented in Ancestral Puebloan rock art and cliff dwellings and is considering sacred by Navajo tradition. The remains of many Navajo Hogans are still present in the area. Many Navajos sought shelter from Kit Carson’s brutal occupation of Navajo Lands to the south and the US Army’s forced relocation to an intended reservation on the New Mexico/Oklahoma border in the deep canyons and remote mesas around the Bears Ears. Navajo Headman Manuelito (‘Ashkii Diyinii, or Holy Boy and Ch’il Haajin), a prominent warrior and leader in this period was born near the Bears Ears Buttes in 1818. Manuelito led his people in their resistance to the forced relocation on the “Long Walk” to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico, and helped secure the treaty that allowed their return to the Navajo homeland. Another important Headman, Kigalia (K’aayelli), was born near the Bears Ears in 1801, and a prominent point and spring north of the Bears Ears are named for him.
The Ute people also have a long history of traditional use near the Bears Ears, and today graze livestock and hunt and gather here. Protection of the Bears Ears region from irresponsible off-roading and the depletion of irreplaceable cultural resources is important to maintain the cultural connections of many Native peoples.
Clouds over the Bears Ears from Joshua Ewing on Vimeo.