Guest column: Navajo Nation will defend Bears Ears National Monument

A sunset panorama of Bears Ears, which President Barack Obama designated as a National Monument Dec. 28 citing its cultural importance to Native people. Photo/Tim Peterson

A sunset panorama of Bears Ears, which President Barack Obama designated as a National Monument Dec. 28 citing its cultural importance to Native people. Photo/Tim Peterson

Leaders of the Navajo Nation are extremely disappointed in President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will diminish the size of the Bears Ears National Monument.

Trump made the announcement at the Utah State Capitol Dec. 4.

Former President Obama designated the national monument on Dec. 28, 2016. The proclamation established the Bears Ears Commission to guide and provide recommendations on management of the landscape and, for the first time, traditional knowledge is honored as a resource to be protected. Navajo people continue to use the monument to collect firewood, herbs, and medicine, and to hunt.

Navajo Nation President Russel Begaye said the Navajo Nation has made repeated requests to meet with President Trump on the issue and the monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region.

“The decision to reduce the size of the monument is being made with no tribal consultation,” Begaye said. “The Navajo Nation will defend Bears Ears. The reduction in the size of the monument leaves us no choice but to litigate this decision.”

Navajo Nation Council members have supported the Bears Ears National Monument through several resolutions, including the most recent resolution passed in January, which supports former President Obama’s proclamation establishing the Bears Ears National Monument and opposes any congressional action that seeks to reverse the designation that created the national monument.

“Navajo people have advocated for protection of the Bears Ears for decades, and continue to use and value the land for their livelihoods and cultural practices. This monument represents part of our history and our future. Navajo Nation has been consistent in our message — we support the 1.35 million acre monument designation,” said Council Delegate Davis Filfred (Mexican Water, Aneth, Teecnospos, Tółikan, Red Mesa), who represents several Navajo communities in the state of Utah and has been a strong and outspoken advocate for Bears Ears.

Filfred also stated Trump did not seek input from Navajo Nation, or the coalition of tribes that worked with the Nation to designate Bears Ears as a national monument.

“Bears Ears has protected Navajo people in the past, and now we must protect it. Navajo Nation will continue to work with the Hopi, Zuni, Ute Indian, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes to fight for our ancestral lands and permanently protect this landscape. This decision disrespects Native Americans across the country by acting against the Antiquities Act, which has been used countless times since 1906 to protect Native American heritage. Navajo Nation will be filing a legal challenge to President Trump’s decision and we will not back down,” added Delegate Filfred.

“Bears Ears National Monument is not just for Native Americans but for all Americans,” said Vice President Jonathan Nez.. “This is a sad day for indigenous people and for America. However, we are resilient and refuse to allow President Trump’s unlawful decision to discourage us. We will continue to fight in honor of our ancestral warriors who fought for our way of life, for our culture and for our land too.”

Navajo Nation President Russell Begay, Vice President Jonathan Nez, Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred and the Navajo Nation Council.

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