Campers destroyed a
19th-century Navajo hogan by using the structure as firewood. Photo from Bears Ears
Opponents of the proposed Bears Ears National
Monument are trying to instill fear among members of the Navajo Nation who otherwise support protections for 1.9 million acres of sacred and historic land in Utah.
Six of the seven Navajo Chapters in Utah support the designation. But Republican politicians and local officials -- including the only tribal member on the San Juan County Commission -- have repeatedly insisted that Navajo citizens do not want to see the monument.
That's probably why someone put up letters that claimed the Interior Department was planning to reduce the size of the Navajo Reservation by creating the monument.
The documents, including one purportedly signed by
Secretary Sally Jewell, were faked.
"These letters represent a new low from our opponents who are fabricating lies and impersonating Navajo and federal officials," said the Utah Dine Bikeyah, a group of Navajo residents in Utah who support the monument.
The Navajo Nation isn't the only tribe backing the monument.
Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition includes the Ute Tribe, the Ute Mountain Ute
Tribe, the Hualapai Tribe
and all 20
“We put aside the sense of who came here first and who came here last,” said Carleton Bowekaty, a council member for the Pueblo of Zuni in New Mexico told The Washington Post. “We’re not confined by reservation lines. We’re not confined by state lines.”
Pueblo, Hualapai, Navajo and Ute ancestors all have called Bears Ears home at one point or another. Tribal members also continue to go to the region for ceremonies, hunting, gathering and other activities.
According to the tribal coalition, the area is home to more than 100,000 archaeological sites that have been targeted for looting and grave-robbing for more than a century. Between May 2014 and April 2015, more than a dozen looting cases were reported at Bears Ears.
Motorized vehicles and human traffic also pose threats. On one occasion, campers burned down a 19th-century hogan that was once home to a Navajo family. They used the structure as firewood.
Jewell plans to visit Bears Ears this summer, The Washington Post reported.
A final decision on the monument would be up to President
Get the Story:
Forged letters mislead Utah residents about Native American land proposal
(The Guardian 6/5)
A major Native American site is being looted. Will Obama risk armed conflict to save it?
(The Washington Post 6/5)
Obama should declare a Bears Ears National Monument (04/25)
Benally: Navajos in Utah oppose Bears Ears monument (04/13)
official decries effort to protect sacred lands in Utah (03/15)
oppose effort to stop Bears Ears National Monument in Utah (03/10)
Lopez-Whiteskunk: Protect Bears Ears for new generations (03/04)
weighs tribal request for Bears Ears National Monument (02/12)
Washburn: Republicans punish tribe with public lands initiative (02/08)
reiterate bid for national monument at Bears Ears in Utah (01/22)
Nation Council dispels misinformation about Bears Ears (10/29)
call for establishment of Bears Ears National Monument (10/16)
Enote: Bears Ears worthy of status as national monument (10/14)
call for new national monument on sacred lands in Utah (08/05)