Tribes unveil proposal for Bears Ears designation: The fight to protect our land continues

Bears-Ears-Buttes-Tim-Peterson-1920x1080

Bears Ears Buttes: A sacred place for Native Americans, including Navajo (photo by Tim Peterson)

The following story gives the latest on the developments of the Bears Ears National Monument proposal which was brought to you earlier on this year. It is the forefront of concern for Utah residents because of the issues of land and access, especially among Native Americans and their sacred sites, in order to protect them from exploitation and damage. It is our responsibility to protect, steward, and manage these places that have been there before America was a country and others came in with their imposition of ideas about management and conservation. Now, in order to protect the same Utah homelands we all share, we need to work together, both Native and non-Native peoples, and make this proposal a reality because if we don’t take care of it, no one else will. It is also the sacred birthplace of our famed Navajo leader, Chief Manuelito, who lead us through hard times during the Long Walk and back to freedom as one of many leaders who signed the Treaty of 1868. As another famous Navajo leader, Barboncito, once said, “I hope to God you will not ask me to go anywhere except my own country.” 

NATIONAL MONUMENTS:

Tribes unveil proposal for Bears Ears designation

Dylan Brown, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, October 15, 2015

Native American leaders from five Southwest tribes today announced their proposal for a national monument designation, a plan they released with prayers.

In their own languages and in English, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition urged President Obama to use the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate 1.9 million acres of federal lands in southwestern Utah as the Bears Ears National Monument.

But prayers have to be walked, not just talked, Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk said.

“We are who we are because of our ancestors, because of the prayers, because of all that the land provides for us,” said Lopez-Whiteskunk, a council member for Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, one of the tribes in the coalition along with the Navajo, Hopi, Ute Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and Zuni Pueblo.

The group debuted its proposal at the National Press Club today in Washington, D.C., as promised during a meeting with Obama administration officials in July.

Bears Ears Proposal Plan

Bears Ears Proposal Plan

Coalition Co-chairman Eric Descheenie, special adviser to Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, called the proposal “unprecedented,” arguing the spiritual connection to the plateaus and surrounding deserts of Bear Ears cannot be overstated.

Citing an “indigenous truth” not always heard on Capitol Hill, Descheenie emphasized the healing power of the land that has sustained tribal peoples since time immemorial and described the area as irreplaceable territory under siege from looters, collectors, energy development and off-road vehicles.

“All of these unfortunate acts, terrible acts, whether intentional or not, are devastating to our ability to heal,” Descheenie said.

Descheenie said the coalition was formed as the tribes’ response to being largely ignored during the Utah Public Lands Initiative (Greenwire, Aug. 21). The initiative is a legislative effort spearheaded by Utah Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz to once and for all divvy up about 18 million federal acres in Utah for wilderness protection, recreation and energy development (Greenwire, Aug. 6).

Obama has not ruled out using his power to designate national monuments for a 19th time for Bears Ears, a power roundly criticized by many Republicans (E&ENews PM, Aug. 3).

The coalition dropped off its proposal at the offices of Bishop and Chaffetz today, and Descheenie said the tribes will continue working with the initiative, offering a “second chance” to be heard, as required by their unique relationship with the federal government.

“We are not stakeholders,” Descheenie said.

“We’ve been saying it loudly for a very long time, and we’re still here,” Descheenie said. “And we’re not going to stop at protecting our ability to heal. We want to be happy people just as much as anybody else, and this is the conversation that is not happening.”

In a joint statement, Bishop and Chaffetz, along with Utah Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, acknowledged the coalition as “an important stakeholder in the Public Lands Initiative.”

“While many Native Americans who live in Utah oppose the Coalition’s proposal, we welcome the input and recommendations nonetheless,” they said. “Our offices have now received over 65 detailed proposals from various stakeholder groups regarding land management in eastern Utah. We remain committed to reviewing each proposal and producing a final PLI bill that is balanced and broadly supported.”

Some Navajo in Utah, including San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally, oppose the monument, arguing it cuts off access for traditional religious ceremonies, gathering of medicinal herbs, wood harvesting and hunting.

With a petition signed by 300 Utah Navajos, Benally also evoked the spiritual connection to the land in lobbying for parts of the area to be designated as a national conservation area, which would permit energy development elsewhere.

“We can preserve a lot of things without making it a monument,” Utah Navajo Marie Holliday said in a statement provided by Benally, adding, “The people behind the tribal coalition are doing what’s best for themselves, not what’s best for the Utah Navajo people.”

Willie Grayeyes, chairman of the Utah Diné Bikéyah, said the tribes are far from split, noting the support pledged by 25 governments in the Four Corners states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as the National Congress of American Indians.

Mountains in the proposed national park area.

Mountains in the proposed national park area. (photo by Tim Peterson)

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.

“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/

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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