The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, comprised of the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Ute Indian Tribe, and the Pueblo of Zuni, looks forward to working with the incoming Biden administration to restore protections for the sacred landscape known as Bears Ears.

On December 28, 2016, we celebrated President Obama’s establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument (“Monument”). The Monument was established following more than two decades of grassroots work, including efforts by our Coalition Tribes to help others understand the importance of Bears Ears’ to our history, traditions and culture. We greatly appreciated the hard work that the Obama administration did leading up to the Monument’s creation.

A year later we were shocked by the Trump administration’s abrupt and illegal action purporting to drastically change the Monument’s boundaries, reducing by some 85% the area protected. We immediately filed a legal challenge to Trump’s action, along with a number of other interested groups. At present, these consolidated lawsuits are pending in federal district court.

The Trump administration’s politically motivated decision removed national monument protections for thousands of significant cultural and natural objects, landmarks, structures, and places, including ancient burial grounds. As anyone who has visited this spectacularly unique area knows, the Bears Ears landscape is extremely fragile, and thus it and its numerous cultural antiquities were placed in jeopardy. And when special places like Bears Ears are damaged, or its cultural resources lost, the traditions and practices that are tied to them often suffer the same fate.

By eliminating some 85% of the lands protected by national monument designation, the Trump administration engaged in a sham management planning process that was inadequate, incomplete, and contrary to the intent of the Tribes and many others who came together to advocate for the Monument’s creation. The Coalition Tribes expressed their strong opposition to the truncated planning process, a process that largely ignored our concerns and attempted to make the Monument’s reduction a fait accompli, despite the pendency of litigation challenging the legality of the Trump administration’s action. The decision by Trump political appointees to forge ahead and devise a management plan for the illegally reduced Monument, without taking into account the Coalition Tribes’ concerns, subverted the federal-trust responsibility and placed fragile lands and invaluable sacred cultural resources at risk. 

We very much look forward to working with the incoming Biden administration to restore the Bears Ears National Monument and to re-establish the Bears Ears Commission, thereby once-again recognizing the role of the five Coalition Tribes in the management of the Monument.

“I congratulate Joe Biden on his election as President-Elect of the United States and look forward to working closely with his administration on our shared priorities. I am encouraged by the strong and comprehensive path forward that he and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris have laid out for tribal communities, and it is my hope that we can build on the efforts made by the Obama administration, in restoring tribal lands, and addressing the many economic, social, environmental and cultural challenges facing Tribal Nations today.”  — Clark Tenakhongva, Vice-Chairman of the Hopi Tribe and Coalition Co-Chair

“The Ute Indian Tribe calls on President-Elect Biden to quickly address the Trump administration’s illegal acts exposing our sacred and priceless resources in Bears Ears.  Restoration of the Bears Ears National Monument and its Tribal Commission is a national priority. Our culture, our way of life comes from these lands. Restoring the Monument will help to reset the Federal government’s trust responsibility to Indian nations. Together we can manage these resources for the benefit of all.”  — Shaun Chapoose, Uncompahgre Representative and Member of the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee

“The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the monument-bordering White Mesa community remains optimistic as we await meaningful government to government engagement with the Biden administration to collaboratively manage and protect cultural resources, sacred sites, and to maintain access for ceremonial practices and traditional uses, such as wood or plant gathering and hunting, within the Bears Ears landscape.  The time has come to protect Bears Ears and we must heed that call together.”   — Malcolm Lehi, White Mesa Representative of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

“The Indigenous five finger surface people regard the Bears Ears as a Panacea in medicine, a source of inspiration, and the key which opens the glories of another world. President-Elect Joe Biden once said, “If you do politics the right way, I believe, you can actually make people’s lives better. And integrity is the minimum ante to get into the game.” The Indigenous people have been in the game since “Time Immemorial” in the Bears Ears region. President Barack Obama established the Bears Ears National Monument, with hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God’s (The Creator’s) greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.”  — Hank Stevens, Naatsis’áán (Navajo Mountain) Chapter President and Coalition Co-Chair