Utah Dine Bikeyah Board
Chairman Willie Grayeyes, left, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe council member
Malcolm Lehi ride horses at Bears Ears in Utah. Photo from UDB /
The non-Indian power structure in San Juan County, Utah, is one of the driving forces against the proposed Bears Ears National
Native Americans -- mostly members of the Navajo Nation -- represent a slight majority of the county's population. But local elected officials often take stances that are contrary to Native interests.
The potential monument is one of them. Even though six of the seven Navajo chapters in Utah support a designation and even though voters also support protections, county officials claim it would be disastrous.
A monument at Bears Ears "would be almost un-American," commissioner
Bruce Adams, who is non-Indian, told The New York Times, implying that tribal citizens are not Americans.
The commission's chairman is Phil Lyman, a non-Indian who has been convicted of leading an illegal ATV
ride through Recapture Canyon, a sacred and ancestral site in the county.
He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and three years probation, The
Deseret News reported in December.
The commission's other member is Native -- Rebecca
Benally, who is a member of the Navajo Nation. She has supported some level of protections for Bears Ears but Republican members of Congress -- relying on the county's official position -- claim she actually opposes a monument.
Still, the non-Indian power structure is being slowly cracked. Last month, the Navajo Nation won a major voting rights lawsuit that requires the county to redraw its three districts to better reflect the Native population.
But while that case was proceeding, the county eliminated all polling locations and required residents to send in
their ballots by mail. The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and several Navajo citizens filed a new lawsuit aimed at protecting their voting rights.
Get the Story:
Remote Utah Enclave Becomes New Battleground Over Reach of U.S. Control
(The New York Times 3/13)
Tribes oppose effort to stop Bears Ears National
Monument in Utah (3/10)
Protect Bears Ears for new generations (03/04)
Obama weighs tribal request
for Bears Ears National Monument (02/12)
Kevin Washburn: Republicans punish tribe in public
lands measure (2/8)
Tribes reiterate bid for
national monument at Bears Ears in Utah (01/22)
Navajo Nation Council dispels
misinformation about Bears Ears (10/29)
Tribes call for establishment
of Bears Ears National Monument (10/16)
Jim Enote: Bears Ears worthy of status as national
Tribes call for new national
monument on sacred lands in Utah (8/5)