Navajos in Utah want protection for ancestral lands: “Dine Bikeyah” Land Proposal

The proposal for a national conservation area would preserve Cedar Mesa and adjacent areas that are filled with some of America’s oldest archaeological treasures that need urgent protection, also known as the “Dine Bikeyah” land proposal, is fast becoming a large issue for the state of Utah, federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, and local entities such as San Juan County. Watch the video now to hear from Utah Navajo themselves how important this land is and go beyond “Into America” and get additional perspectives from the people in their own words.

New Fight brought to Utah Lands Issues using “racist” methods?

San Juan County showdown slated for Saturday at Recapture Canyon

(click to see story)

There is a new fight that is brewing against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the residents of Utah, namely in the small town of Blanding. While it might be understandable the frustration they are feeling because of the ineptitude of the BLM and its disorganized and seemingly arbitrary delineations of land demarcations, they do still have a job and they need to be accountable for doing it. Thus, the backlash against the federal government is beginning to culminate in the local White Mormon residents of Utah vs. the BLM, especially in the wake of the FBI raids of 2009 when they claimed that the alleged law-breakers were arrested with excessive force using “overkill” force by the feds.

Billboard upon entering Blanding, Utah: both Indians and artifacts

Billboard upon entering Blanding, Utah: both Indians and artifacts

As stated by MotherJones.com: “This Saturday, angry residents of San Juan County, Utah, plan to illegally ride their ATVs through Utah’s Recapture Canyon—an 11 mile-long stretch of federal land that is home to Native American archeological sites—because they don’t think that the federal Bureau of Land Management should have designated that land off-limits to motor vehicles. The protest was meant to be a local affair. But on Thursday, Bundy, the rancher who wouldn’t pay the feds grazing fees and sparked a gun-drenched showdown in Nevada, called on his supporters to join the anti-government off-roading event, E&E Publishing’s Phil Taylor reported. Bundy, whose crusade against the federal government became tainted by his racist comments, is looking to spread the cause from cattle to cross-country cruising.”

All Terrain Vehicles (ATV’s) can do damage on trails with fragile ecosystems and irreplaceable archaeological sites of indigenous ancestors which are all over San Juan County

This time, the BLM is the target for this same demographic and is supported by the son of Cliven Bundy of Nevada who is recently become somewhat popular among staunch Republicans as a poster boy for American land-owners against the BLM but is also…a recorded racist in talking about African-Americans. Apparently, these same people have forgotten that it is not a question about them owning the land or the government land because it is not their land: it is Native American land.

Cliven Bundy

Cliven Bundy of Nevada

Let me restate that so it sinks in: If this is a question about being an American with freedoms and rights to own land without as much government interference or regulation, then you couldn’t be more spot on when talking about Native American communities, everywhere, including there in Utah, who have had to deal with not just the government but the settler-colonial agents of Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny since the beginning of this Western imposed nation-state you call America. This argument does not include Indians because we are older than America and preclude these “rights” that were written for a similar crowd at the time of the Constitution (white land owners who were business man and developers). Whose land is this? This is Indian land. It has always been our land. It will always be our land. We are not going anywhere. We will not leave. This is our home. The sooner both ranchers like Bundy or San Juan citizens like Phil Lyman can get that, the more they can get to the root of the problem: Land issues.

Phil Lyman, San Juan County Commissioner leading ATV protest

Phil Lyman, San Juan County Commissioner leading ATV protest

Could it be that they are so desperate to talk about land issues that they are willing to use racists and their sons as symbols of their fight? Or is that just a natural inclination of San Juan citizens according to the treatment of American Indians in the local area in a number of cases (i.e. disrespectfully selling and collecting Native American artifacts in 2009, attempting to defy the Antiquities Act and Eastern Lands Bill for land use open to everyone by Congressman Bishop in 2013, etc.) Even Bundy’s argument misses the mark because there were the Dann Sisters, of the Western Shoshone tribe, who tried to fight for their land and their ranch but were not as publicly recognized or given as much attention about their land issues as Bundy seems to be getting now. Maybe its because the sisters didn’t say anything racist. I don’t know.

Western Shoshone sisters of Nevada

Western Shoshone Dann sisters of Nevada

Utah officials and citizens are hiding behind their “rights” as American citizens that they pretend to respect but are willing to literally tread upon their own government for their own benefits. In addition, they disrespect the local Native American populations as well by not listening, respecting, or leaving the artifacts that are not supposed to be collected alone. They are willing to destroy ancient archaeological artifacts and sites that are supposed to be protected, preserved, and acknowledged as spaces that should be respected. In this day and age, with both Native and non-Native peoples sharing a community and land, there is no excuse for this kind of ignorance mixed with privilege and power from a powerful group “asserting” its “rights” over another marginalized group. It is appalling to me the conduct of a supposedly Mormon town towards their own nation and other sovereign indigenous nations that live there in the area such as the White Mesa Paiute, Ute Mountain Tribe, and the Navajo. Do these Blanding citizens have no other way to show their protest than to destroy the place that they love by riding ATV’s over it and not including Native American perspectives in this conversation?

 

Ancient indigenous archaeological sites

Ancient indigenous archaeological sites of San Juan County

San Juan residents talk back: Eastern Lands Bill comments

In order to better understand the land issues in the film, we need to see the current events concerning the land today. Because it was originally in the hands of the Navajo, other outside entities have contested claims to these lands, rightfully or wrongly, but they often neglect the voice of the indigenous peoples who live there despite outsiders’ own claims.

Here is a document that shares some local points of view about the proposed San Juan County wilderness areas and various perspectives on it. There is a media sharing happening now with all the documents floating around the internet concerning the Eastern Lands Bill and the stakeholders associated with it. What is interesting about it is the pointed and biased views of the Navajo people from locals, an obvious prejudicial tendency to stereotype Navajos as trying to take “their” lands away from them. For more information on the overt dislike for Navajos voicing their opinion, click “The Petroglyph”, a local news media outlet  for residents of San Juan County: http://thepetroglyph.com/dine-bikeyah-sells-their-traditional-life-style-for-say-in-bishops-land-bill/ Obviously, there are a number of things wrong with their arguments, not the least of which is the Manifest Destiny claim against Navajos. Evidently, the author doesn’t know the meaning and origin of the word.

Most notably, the commission meetings are held in the town areas away from the borders of the Navajo Nation, some of those lands which are in San Juan County, leaving the voice of the local Utah Navajos out. Many of those local Navajos there do not have transportation are elders, don’t speak English, or are able to be fully informed of the current events intended for these meetings.

Commission Meeting:

October 22nd Monticello Utah– 7:00 PM at the Monticello High School

October 23rd Blanding Utah – 7:00 PM at the Blanding High School

October 24th Bluff Utah – 7:00 PM at the Bluff Community Center 

For more information about the scheduled meetings for the discussion about the land issues that leave out consideration for Navajo input: http://thepetroglyph.com/san-juan-county-lands-bill-open-houses/

As you can see, there is not as much consideration for the Navajo population in San Juan County to meet them where they live at and build more meaningful and positive relationships with Non-Navajos as one would hope. The least SJ residents, leaders, politicians, and community representatives could do is hold a meeting in Mexican Hat, Monument Valley, or Montezuma Creek. These are closer towns to the Navajo Nation and their chapters. Incidents of not extending the services of San Juan County to Navajos and not just Non-Navajos have been rising in recent years. Some would call that discrimination. If want to see the full schedule of proposed meetings, access here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/179509421/San-Juan-County-Lands-BIll-Survey

Please take the time to look some of these comments over and see that there are many sides to the issue but just because residents feel strongly about their local residency doesn’t mean Navajos feel any less strongly. Arguably, they feel more connected and responsible for the lands here because we were already here before the settler-colonial expansion into the West, not more than a couple hundred years ago by them, lest they forget.CITIZENS SAY NO TO BISHOP’S LANDS BILL

This is the land area that everyone is talking about either making a wilderness conservation area, a free-for-all for business and tourism, or a balance between both.

For more information about the current events for the land dispute occurring in San Juan County, access the documents at this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/183792272/San-Juan-Alliance-Proposal-for-Bishops-lands-bill

While I don’t agree nor condone most of the views from this electronic press outlet, I do think alternative views are in order to see what other perspectives are out there: http://thepetroglyph.com

I believe if one reads their articles, people can ascertain for themselves whether or not they want to invest their time and energy into a publication that is slanted against Navajos and conservationists while endorsing Republicans and Mormons. Regardless, it is helpful for residents, Navajo and Non-Navajo, to educate themselves about what is going on in their backyard.

The Navajo Reservation

The Navajo Reservation


Situated in the northeastern portion of Arizona and in the northwestern part of New Mexico bordering on Colorado and Utah is the Navajo reservation.

Now the largest Indian reservation in the United States, comprising as it does nearly ten million acres, or nearly fifteen thousand square miles.

Being equal in size to the combined areas of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

The home of the Navajo Indians has always been considered one of the most arid and barren portions of the Great American Desert.

San Juan County, the Southeastern region of Utah state, is the highly contested land area (The Ancestor's Land) focused upon in this film.

San Juan County, the Southeastern region of Utah state, is the highly contested land area (The Ancestor’s Land) focused upon in this film.

This land area is the central focus of land issue contention between several entities. Among them, the Navajo Nation, Bureau of Land ManagementSan Juan County, Utah Land Trust, the Aneth Chapter, and Montezuma Creek. The rapid development of natural resource exploitation facilitated the removal of the Yellowman family and pressured others to concede their lands to many of these outside entities. Now, the development continues literally today in the discussions proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop (R) of Utah to further develop natural resources in these very areas. For more information, click here.

The link to the San Juan County official website regarding the information available to the public here. It is also known as the Eastern Utah Lands Bill on the same site with additional information available for the public including options to comment here.

Please speak out against the continued resource exploitation and destruction of traditional Navajo lands and natural landscapes of the Utah desert country. Join us in our effort to make our voices heard. Wilderness is not currency and we don’t want Rob Bishop to sale our lands or San Juan County to dissolve the Antiquities Law. Our environment, our Mother Earth, and our cultural, traditional, and spiritual ways of life are not for sale.

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