Native American Groups Push Biden for 'Immediate' Action on Bears Ears Monument Ancient granaries, part of the House on Fire ruins are shown here in the South Fork of Mule Canyon in the Bears Ears National Monument on May 12, 2017 outside Blanding, Utah. (George Frey/Getty)
By Solange Reyner | Tuesday, 28 September 2021 04:42 PM
A coalition of Native American groups is calling on President Joe Biden to immediately restore the boundaries of Utah’s Bears Ears monument shrunk by former President Donald Trump by about 85 percent, citing limited access to ritual space and degradation of former Indigenous settlements from coal mining, oil and gas drilling, grazing, looting and other threats, reports The Washington Post.
Former President Barack Obama in 2016 designated Bears Ears as a national monument. Trump a year later slashed the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Monuments to allow for fewer restrictions and more development on public land, a move that drew condemnation from many Native American activists and some corporations, including outdoor outfitter Patagonia.
Biden in January signed an executive order initiating boundary reviews of the monuments and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in June recommended to the White House that the boundaries be expanded.
“We have tried to be patient and respectful as we await your decision on restoration," Clark W. Tenakhongva, vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe, and Henry Stevens Jr., representative for the Navajo Nation, wrote in a letter sent last week Biden and obtained by the Post.
"However, the longer action is not taken, real harm, much permanent, is occurring on this sacred landscape.”
Bears Ears covers lands considered sacred to Native Americans where red rocks reveal petroglyphs and cliff dwellings and distinctive twin buttes bulge from a grassy valley.
"Each day that passes without national monument protection for numerous sacred sites and irreplaceable cultural resources risks desecration, looting, vandalism, and misinformed visitation to an area that contains the exact kind of antiquities that inspired the creation of the Antiquities Act," Stevens Jr. said in the letter.
"These artifacts, considered by us to be messages our ancestors meant for us to see and incorporate as lessons into our present, are literally being erased."