Chairman Shaun Chapoose of the Ute Tribe
is seen outside of the main Department of the Interior headquarters in Washington, D.C., on September 27, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com / More on Flickr
The Ute Tribe is once again taking on powerful interests as it seeks to prevent the Trump administration from undermining the Bears Ears National Monument.
Ute leaders have been major champions of the new monument in southeastern Utah. They call its designation an exercise of the federal government's treaty and trust responsibilities to their people because it protects their ancestral territory.
But Bears Ears -- already unpopular among politicians in the state -- is facing a new attack. President
Donald Trump derided the monument an "abuse" of the government's power on Wednesday and ordered the Department of the Interior to review it.
“The monument was designated in response to government-to-government discussions that honored the trust relationship between the federal government and Indian Country,” the tribe's business committee said in response on Thursday. “Any proposed changes can only be done through full tribal consultation that respects our sovereignty and the authority of the tribes to manage the monument.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has promised to go to Bears Ears within the next 45 days to hear from tribal, local and state interests. Ute leaders are welcoming the visit but they are already alarmed by his declaration -- found in a press release -- that "rural America has a voice again" as a result of Trump's executive order.
“What about our voice?” the tribe said in its statement. “It’s been almost two months since we asked Secretary Zinke to meet. He must live up to his commitment to work with tribes, honor our voice, and not just listen to D.C. politicians.”
Tribal leaders, singers and
veterans take part in a celebration for the new Bears Ears National Monument in
Utah on January 7, 2016. Photo by Tim Peterson
Ute leaders last year battled Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the powerful leader of the House Committee on Natural Resources when he introduced a bill that essentially punished them for supporting Bears Ears. The measure would have taken federally-managed land within the tribe's reservation and transferred it to the state.
The tribe slammed the effort as a "modern day Indian land grab" -- a description that clearly disturbed Bishop. Opposition from the Utes, the Navajo Nation and other tribes kept the bill from getting too far in the last session of Congress.
But while he may have lost the fight on Bears Ears, Bishop isn't giving up on the larger war. One of his subcommittees is meeting next week for a hearing with a provocative title -- "Examining the Consequences of Executive Branch Overreach of the Antiquities Act."
The Antiquities Act is the century-old law that authorizes presidents to create national monuments out of federal lands. That's exactly what Barack Obama did by protecting 1.35 million acres of sacred
lands, burial grounds and other important sites at Bears Ears in Utah.
“If President Trump wants changes in how national monuments are designated, he should change how the law is used in the future [not] revoke or change monuments already agreed to.” the Ute leaders said.
“The only groups opposed to Bears Ears and other monuments are D.C. politicians and their lobbyists," the tribe said. "This monument was established with the input and support of five tribal nations and should not be arbitrarily set aside or rescinded.”
House Subcommittee on Federal Lands Notice:
Oversight Hearing on the Consequences of Executive Branch Overreach of the Antiquities Act
(May 2, 2017)
singles out Bears Ears as an 'abuse' of government's power (April 26, 2017)
Keeler: New monument marks victory for tribal sites (January 10, 2017)
celebrate designation of national monument at Bears Ears (January 9, 2017)
Lee: Don't declare monument at sacred Bears Ears in Utah (December 13, 2016)
land protection efforts face questions with Donald Trump (November 18, 2016)
Tribe goes to war against 'modern day Indian land grab' bill (October 19,
Tribe goes ignored again as lawmakers host field hearing on energy (October
Tribe continues battle against 'modern day Indian land grab' (September 28,
slammed as 'modern day Indian land grab' moves forward (September 22, 2016)
Republican moves quickly on 'modern day Indian land grab' (September 19,
Tribe: Utah Republican pushes modern day Indian land grab (September 14,
run strong as #NoDAPL seeps into debate on controversial public lands bill
(September 14, 2016)
Bears Ears in Utah deserves protection as new monument (August 1, 2016)
Sombrero Navarrete: A Christian call to protect sacred land (July 29, 2016)
Moe: Protect sacred and ancestral sites at Bears Ears (July 20, 2016)
gear up for fight over protections for sacred land in Utah (July 15, 2016)
Benally: Navajos in Utah oppose Bears Ears monument (April 13, 2016)
official decries effort to protect sacred lands in Utah (March 15, 2016)
oppose effort to stop Bears Ears National Monument in Utah (March 10, 2016)
Lopez-Whiteskunk: Protect Bears Ears for new generations (March 4, 2016)
weighs tribal request for Bears Ears National Monument (February 12, 2016)
reiterate bid for national monument at Bears Ears in Utah (January 22, 2016)
Nation Council dispels misinformation about Bears Ears (October 29, 2015)
call for establishment of Bears Ears National Monument (October 16, 2015)
Enote: Bears Ears worthy of status as national monument (October 14, 2015)
call for new national monument on sacred lands in Utah (August 5, 2015)