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

“Standing on Sacred Ground” Film Series at Wesleyan University

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March 1 & 2 at Wesleyan University featured the “Standing on Sacred Ground” Film Series with director Christopher “Toby” McLeod (featured at the far left) who has been doing this project since the early 1990’s now sharing his films with the world by touring, screening, and conversing with various audiences. Filmmaker Angelo Baca was invited to participate on the panel commentating on the film and talking with the audiences during Q & A. Of course, we mentioned “Into America” as another film associated with indigenous peoples fighting for and trying to protect our traditional lands. This film series goes around the globe from the indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea fighting to protect their waters to the tar sands of Alberta, from Russian shamans protecting their lands to the Winnemem Wintu fighting a dam project by the government, to Native Peruvians trying to keep their foods alive in the face of climate change and the Ethiopian tribal peoples attempting to keep their traditional ways and lands, to Aboriginal Australians and Native Hawaiians reclaiming traditional land and resisting the government and the military.

He is also known for his highly acclaimed film “In the Light of Reverence” also dealing with sacred site protection but specifically in the United States. Christopher traveled to many native communities and was willing to share his experiences with the audiences at Wesleyan and the panel of academics, traditional native people, and other filmmakers. It was an honor to participate with a great group of people on an excellent project. Now, more than ever, is the time for all of humanity to unite against the destruction of our sacred places, the natural world, and indigenous communities.

The discussions from the panel was fantastic and ranged on many topics from traditional native views, teachings, and culture of the land to academic perspectives of theory, philosophy, and modernity. The wide experiences and background made for interesting and rich conversation which included great input and feedback from the audience with their questions and comments. Our hosts were gracious, generous, and welcoming.

We want to thank the Wesleyan Film Studies Department, Department of Religion, Department of Anthropology, and everyone else who put this together whom I am sure are far too many to mention, including Toby and his supporters who helped fund his project and see it to fruition. Keep watch out for the film series as it will be shown on PBS some time in the near future.

 www.http://standingonsacredground.org/            www.http://www.sacredland.org/home/films/in-production/

Link

Utah Unlikely to “take back” federal lands

This is a fantastic editorial piece out of the Deseret News from Robert Bennett, a former US Senator from Utah, about the need to leave federal lands alone in which “the original owners were Utes and Navajos”. Notice it was published a few days ago, but the words and brief history he gives from an experienced perspective are valuable to the general public but also those of us who are attempting to retain our rightful claim to our lands, culture, history, and traditional sacred places that need protecting in the face of governmental, capitalist ventures, and natural resource exploitation. It is nice to see a reasoned and logical argument from another perspective than our own; we need allies to help us secure our traditional lands and keep them from being desecrated or otherwise wrongfully appropriated.

“Utah Dine Bikeyah”: Eastern Lands Bill Position of Local Navajos

Utah-Arizona Border

Help keep the lands intact and free from exploitation from outsiders

This short letter comes from some local Utah Navajos who are taking a side in the discussion about the new hotly debated contested use of Southeastern Utah lands bill which encompasses the area which is discussed in the “Into America: The Ancestor’s Land” documentary film. San Juan County, is taking comments from all sides by allowing stakeholders, whoever they may be, to state their position and tell the government what they think should be done with the lands. Of course, we as Navajos, are limited to only one position to take although we know that there are far more opposing parties looking to exploit, harvest, and allocate the lands for non-Navajos and other outsiders, especially businesses and land-owners. For more informationhttp://www.sanjuancounty.org/lands_bill.htm

“The Navajo Nation in cooperation with the Utah Diné Bikéyah, is proposing the creation of the Diné Bikéyah National Conservation Area within Navajo ancestral land in southeastern Utah. The 1.9 million acre conservation area includes wilderness designations, as well as a co-management relationship to ensure the sustainable continuation of culturally important activities. Protection of the rich cultural heritage sites within San Juan County is a top priority for the Navajo. Diné Elders speak clearly and consistently about their desires for a voice in determining land management in San Juan County. Development, recreation, and grazing impacts are negatively affecting cultural sites and land uses of the Diné people. Federal agencies have not been able to protect these resources alone. Therefore, stronger policies, and the means by which the Navajo can assist with monitoring and enforcement activities are needed.

The goals proposed for the Diné Bikéyah National Conservation Area are: 1) provide clear management prioritization toward the protection of cultural and biological resources over other land-uses; 2) increase funding allocation to improve management of resources for this region; 3) create a process that recognizes the legitimate interests of the Navajo on federal land; and 4) provide a means of incorporating the extensive and valuable knowledge of the Navajo into land management decisions.” – Mark Maryboy, former Navajo Nation Council Delegate for the Utah Navajo Section of the Navajo Tribe.

For more information about the proposed mapped plan of this group, click Dine Bikeyah Proposal and the official website: http://utahdinebikeyah.org/