US officials explain to Indians why we have to take back their land. Again.
“Rising from the center of the southeastern Utah landscape and visible from every direction are twin buttes so distinctive that in each of the native languages of the region their name is the same: Hoon’Naqvut, Shash Jáa, Kwiyagatu Nukavachi, Ansh An Lashokdiwe, or ‘Bears Ears.’ For hundreds of generations, native peoples lived in the surrounding deep sandstone canyons, desert mesas … one of the densest and most significant cultural landscapes in the United States.”
—Dec. 28, 2016 proclamation by President Barack Obama establishing the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument
The designation of Bears Ears as a national monument—which environmental advocates, including many American Indians, fought for decades to get protected—was a victory that some in the Trump regime would like to see overturned, or at least weakened. Pr*sident Trump has called for a review of all national monuments larger than 100,000 acres created since 1996, labeling their protections a “massive federal land grab.” And he’s charged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke with the task of seeing whether some or all of some 40 monuments can be reversed or at least shrunken.
Enter Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. Standing alongside Zinke during his trip to the state to check out Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Hatch claimed Indians who supported Bears Ears were “manipulated” into their stance, and the “far left” is determined to do even more:
“The Indians, they don’t fully understand that a lot of the things that they currently take for granted on those lands, they won’t be able to do if it’s made clearly into a monument or a wilderness,” Hatch said on Sunday. “Once you put a monument there, you do restrict a lot of things that could be done, and that includes use of the land … Just take my word for it.”
Asked specifically what activities would be restricted, Hatch said it would take too long to elaborate.
This, like much of what Utah’s congressional delegation spews about Bears Ears, is bunkum, but with a whitesplainin’ edge to it.
For the record, traditional activities are specifically excluded from restrictions in the Bears Ears proclamation. It ensures “the protection of Indian sacred sites and traditional cultural properties in the monument and provide access by members of Indian tribes for traditional cultural and customary uses… including collection of medicines, berries and other vegetation, forest products, and firewood for personal noncommercial.”
The five-tribe Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition—which spent years working with other groups to get the monument established—are fully versed and “fully understand” that Hatch is lying. They wanted even more land to be included in the monument, but the Obama administration chose to stick fairly close to an alternative that was worked out with the Utah delegation. That delegation, filled with people who want large hunks of federal land turned over to the states (and the private sector) still didn’t approve of the designation of Bears Ears.
William Grayeyes, who represents at least one tribal group as chairman of the pro-monument Utah Diné Bikéyah board, objected to Hatch’s remarks, saying, “It is offensive that some people think that Native Americans do not have a will of their own.” And the Utah League of Native American Voters called Hatch’s comments “blatantly racist, misinformed and condescending [in] tone,” and demanded an apology, for what that’s worth. Here’s Grayeyes:
American Indians “understand the special and sacred landscapes at Bears Ears National Monument better than anyone,” Grayeyes said, and “have stewarded these landscapes for thousands of years.” He said American Indians are “very pleased with the language used in the proclamation that protects the things we care about and gives us a voice in our future.”
Hatch “does not understand what he is working so hard to take away,” Grayeyes said. “If he would just listen to us, he would stop fighting against what we stand for because it is not a threat to him or anyone else,” Grayeyes said.
Listening to Indians, of course, is not something white authorities have often done over the past 400 years since Europeans first settled the eastern seaboard of what is now the United States. An example of actually listening was how support for Bears Ears was developed. Gavin Noyes, executive director of the Utah Diné Bikéyah, points out that the Bears Ears boundaries were partially drawn based on the group’s conversations with 75 American Indian elders. Apparently, they’re just pawns as far as Hatch is concerned.
You would think it was 1885.
(Originally appeared at DailyKos. Image By USFS.)