Tribal Coalition reiterates request to meet with Secretary Zinke

Monument Valley, Utah – The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a partnership of the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah & Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni Tribal governments, congratulates Ryan Zinke on his confirmation as Secretary of Interior and looks forward to working with him during his tenure at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“On behalf of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, we invite Secretary Zinke to honor the commitment he made during his confirmation hearing and invite him to meet with Tribal leaders before making any recommendations on Bears Ears National Monument,” said Alfred Lomahquahu, Vice Chairman of the Hopi Tribe and Co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. “Our message to the Secretary is this: Our Nations came together and worked closely with the U.S. Government to finally recognize Bears Ears as cultural and historic lands that carry deep meaning for our peoples. Bears Ears National Monument represents a commitment between five sovereign Tribal Nations and the U.S. Government that we wholly expect to be honored and maintained.”

Last month, the Coalition sent a letter to the Secretary personally inviting him to meet in-person during his visit to Utah.

“We want to speak clearly on this matter to Secretary Zinke that altering Bears Ears National Monument is a non-starter issue for us,” said Carleton Bowekaty, Zuni councilman and Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Co-chair. “Let me be perfectly clear, the Tribal Governments are in complete support of the Bears Ears National Monument. Tribal leaders and a majority of Utahns, do not support any effort to alter in any way, shape or form. Comments from the Utah congressional delegation to the contrary are simply false. The national monument is actually a solution we brought forward to create opportunity for all while protecting our past. We look forward to meeting with Secretary Zinke and helping him fully grasp the importance of Bears Ears and the widespread support that exists.”

In addition to unified Tribal support for the national monument, recent polling by Colorado College shows that Utahns favor designation by a staggering 15-point margin.

“The designation of Bears Ears National Monument was a historic moment in the protection of our cultural and spiritual heritage,” said Prisllena Rabbit, Vice Chairwoman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council. “Any change to the monument would undermine the efforts of so many, and would disrespect our deep connections to this place. We hope Secretary Zinke will listen to our stories, the stories of Bears Ears.”

Bears Ears has been home to Hopi, Navajo, Uintah & Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni for countless generations. The national monument which took more than 80 years to designate, acknowledges a cultural landscape rich in antiquities, with hundreds of thousands of archaeological and cultural sites sacred to dozens of tribes. The land is powerful medicine for healing – of the land, of plants and animals and for all people.

“We are encouraged by Secretary Zinke’s record of working with and advocating for the interests of Tribes. We agree wholeheartedly with his statement that ‘sovereignty should mean something,’ and we look forward to meeting with him,” said Davis Filfred, Navajo Nation Council Delegate. “Sacred prayers have been answered by the designation of Bears Ears National Monument, and something that is sacred cannot be reversed.”

The Bears Ears National Monument is the first ever national monument to be protected at the behest of sovereign Tribal Nations. The first first-of-its-kind designation recognizes Native American Traditional Knowledge as a value to be protected by the monument and a resource to be used in its management. The proclamation also establishes for a tribal commission that will work with the U.S. Government to manage the lands.

“The monument was designated, but it’s only the start of a larger battle. We will gather ourselves together to continue the fight to save our lands for the future of all people,” said Shaun Chapoose, Chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee, the highest elected office of the Uintah & Ouray Ute, which is a member of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.

Press Contacts:
Carleton Bowekaty: 505-879-2826
Natasha Hale: 505-906-8303

The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is a partnership of the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah & Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni Governments.