Monument Valley, Utah (June 12, 2017) – In an unprecedented and illegal move, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended that President Trump shrink the Bears Ears National Monument and have Congress undermine protections in the remaining areas. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which includes five sovereign Native nations, issued the following statement:
“For us, Bears Ears is a homeland. It always has been and still is. The radical idea of breaking up Bears Ears National Monument is a slap in the face to the members of our Tribes and an affront to Indian people all across the country. Any attempt to eliminate or reduce the boundaries of this Monument would be wrong on every count. Such action would be illegal, beyond the reach of presidential authority.
“The Bears Ears region is not a series of isolated objects, but the object itself, a connected, living landscape, where the place, not a collection of items, must be protected. You cannot reduce the size without harming the whole. Bears Ears is too precious a place, and our cultures and values too dignified and worthy, to backtrack on the promises made in the Presidential Proclamation.
“The Presidential Proclamation of December 28, 2016 reflects the extensive public outreach and coordination that went into the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument. The national monument designation is already 30% smaller than the recommendation from the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. Every part of the Monument holds “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic and scientific interest” as called for by the Antiquities Act.
“Leaving the Monument fully intact is also the correct result as a matter of right and wrong. The wonderful Bears Ears National Monument is a gift to the citizens of the United States and the world. Once experienced, the physical beauty of the red-rock terrain and the cultural power of the Old People stay with visitors forever. As for us, we personally have received a great gift also, but most of all we think of our ancestors. They gave us everything we have and this Monument honors them, their wisdom, and their way of life. As President Theodore Roosevelt said in proclaiming the 800,000-acre Grand Canyon National Monument under the Antiquities Act, “Leave it just as it is. You cannot improve upon it.”
On December 28, 2016, after years of consultation, planning and direct engagement with his Administration, the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah was designated under the Antiquities Act. It was the first ever national monument to be protected at the behest of sovereign Tribal Nations.