For over 80 years, indigenous people, connected for untold generations to a most unusual and enchanting portion of southwest Utah’s landscape, urged the United States government to protect their homeland. None of those people who started that effort walk upon the Earth with us today, but hopefully, their labor of love wasn’t in vain.
That homeland, Bears Ears National Monument, was established by President Barack Obama in December 2016 at the request of five Native American tribes, who spent six of those 80 years in public meetings developing their plan for management and protection of the land and cultural resources. Those sovereign nations are the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Hopi Nation, and Zuni Tribe.
With the stroke of a pen, President Donald Trump betrayed their efforts Dec. 4 by reducing Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and splitting the monument into two separate units, which don’t even include the iconic and sacred twin buttes for which Bears Ears was named after. Both presidents drew upon the Antiquities Act of 1906 to justify their authority in establishing the national monument, in Obama’s case, and vastly reducing its size in Trump’s case (though the legality of this reduction is unclear).