Utah Diné Bikéyah doubtful that hearing will provide respectful forum for discussion about Bears Ears
Published July 27, 2016
BLANDING, UTAH – Today, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is holding a field hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Blanding, Utah ostensibly on the Utah Public Lands Initiative (PLI) and national monument designations.
“These meetings have repeatedly proven uncomfortable for Native leaders to attend because of the levels of disrespect and disregard for traditional viewpoints,” stated former San Juan County Commissioner and Utah Diné Bikéyah board member Mark Maryboy. “The intimidation and misinformation tactics currently being used by Blanding residents against Native American supporters of a Bears Ears National Monument is astounding as was on display on July 16th with the “booing” of the Navajo Nation President by Commissioner Benally and her supporters.”
Utah Diné Bikéyah, a Utah-based Native American grassroots organization, has been working with San Juan County for several years to develop a proposal to protect Bears Ears in a manner that will benefit today’s Native Americans and all future generations. In 2014, San Juan County opened a comment period on local public land preferences. Even though the County refused to include the Bears Ears proposal in its list of official alternatives, the Tribal proposal received 64% of all county comments of support.
“Since February, we have engaged approximately 7,000 Native American grassroots people who live adjacent to Bears Ears, and more than 1,300 local Native Americans have taken the time to write President Obama a postcard or letter asking him to use the Antiquities Act to protect our ancestral lands and preserve our living traditions,” said Cynthia Wilson, Utah Diné Bikéyah‘s Community Outreach Coordinator. “The PLI has left Native voices out of the process and leaves critical sacred sites such as the confluence of the San Juan and Colorado Rivers and White Canyon unprotected and vulnerable.”
The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition has since taken the lead and is working in good faith to protect Native American traditional uses through a Bears Ears National Monument. The national monument would guarantee that Native Americans will have full access to the Monument lands for gathering firewood and herbs, conducting ceremonies, hunting and recreation.
“Supporters of a Bears Ears National Monument came out two to one in at last week’s public meeting with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell,” stated Willie Grayeyes, Chairman of Utah Diné Bikéyah. “It is clear that Native Americans in Utah and around the region strongly support the national monument. A misinformation campaign was launched in June to turn people against a Bears Ears National Monument by spreading lies and telling supporters to stay away due to the potential for violence. This field hearing is a thinly veiled effort to make it appear that there is more opposition than truly exists. The majority of San Juan County citizens support the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and urgently request President Obama to use his authority to declare a Bears Ears National Monument.”
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