In historic agreement, five Indigenous tribes co-manage Bears Ears National Monument


On Friday, June 18, the United States government formally signed an agreement to co-manage Bears Ears National Monument alongside the Five Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission – a pioneering consortium of leaders representing the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Zuni Pueblo, and Ute Indian Tribe. Members of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, along with representatives from each tribe, were present at the ceremony the next day, where a new sign bearing the insignia of the tribal nations was unveiled. It was a celebration of a more secure future for Bears Ears National Monument, located near the southeast corner of Utah, which has been the subject of longstanding disputes over the management of federal lands.

Valley of the Gods, which was removed from Bears Ears National Monument during the Trump administration, was reinstated in federal land protection in October 2021. (via Wikimedia Commons)

Bears Ears, located in southeastern Utah, is the ancestral lands of several tribal nations and a sacred landscape where cliff dwellings, villages, ritual sites, prehistoric roads, petroglyphs and rock writings remain remarkably well preserved due to the geographical particularities of the region. Large petrographic panels at Bears Ears display rock writings from the Basketmaker (500 BCE to 750 CE) and Ancestral Pueblo (100 to 1600 CE) cultures. Some inscriptions of sheep, human figures, and hunting scenes date back to 4000 BCE, and exemplary Pueblo structures survive to this day. A bird’s eye view of Bears Ears reveals vast red rock formations and mesas characteristic of the Four Corners states, and the pastoral lands within its boundaries continue to be grazed by cattle. Jake Palma, manager of Bears Ears National Monument, remarked that “people still rely on many of the resources found in the Bears Ears landscape.”

In 2016, the Five Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission successfully petitioned the Obama administration to make Bears Ears a national monument and promise Native tribes shared management of the 1.36 million acre site. It became the first national monument to be established at the request of a group of indigenous tribes. But formal stewardship of the land was not transferred to the tribes in time before his administration ended.

Newspaper Rock carries over 2,000 years of prints and designs. (via Wikimedia Commons)

Within a year, the Trump administration reduced the national monument by 85%. It was a policy favored by some local and Utah residents, who opposed federal government control of public lands, and a uranium company, which lobbied to allow energy companies access to uranium deposits. uranium, oil and gas in the region. But the executive order removed much-needed protections for the culturally, historically and religiously significant site, which has been the victim of systematic looting by visitors and local residents in the past.

‘Bears Ears is a living landscape,’ Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary in US history, said in October when Biden restored the monument’s original boundaries in October. 2021. “This is a place that must be protected in perpetuity for every American and every child in the world.

“Today, instead of being removed from a landscape to make way for a public park, we are being invited back to our ancestral lands to help repair them and plan for a resilient future,” said the Co-Chair of the Bears Ears Commission and Lieutenant Governor of Zuni. Pueblo Carleton Bowekaty said in a statement. “We are being asked to apply our traditional knowledge to natural and man-made ecological challenges, drought, erosion, visitation, etc. What can be a better path to restorative justice than giving tribes the opportunity to participate in the management of the land their ancestors have been removed?


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