Monday

They’re going to bulldoze Bears Ears, and there will be nothing there. We’ll tell the next generation, ‘You see that ash pit over there, that’s where Bears Ears was. Now it’s a uranium mine.’

The president is expected to announce the shrinking of two national monuments on a visit to Utah but native tribes are uniting to oppose a ‘monumental mistake’

 It is estimated that Bears Ears holds more than 100,000 Native American cultural and archaeological sites, including petroglyphs, pottery, tools and ancestral Pueblo dwellings.

Sacred sites have been threatened by looting and vandalism. The hope was that national monument status would preserve and protect the land from desecration as well as potential development by the energy industry.

A coalition of five Utah tribes with ties to the land – the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi and the Pueblo of Zuni – has vowed to oppose any shrinkage of the national monument. Before the formation of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, in 2015, the tribes had never come together. Their leaders say legal action is likely if Trump announces a reduction.

“Indian country is coming out of its sleep,” Chapoose said. “It’s given an opportunity for us to voice concerns, and it’s made it OK for tribes to talk amongst themselves, like they used to do a long time ago.


“At one time, there was this big network of communication going on between tribes. After the reservations system, they got isolated from surrounding neighbors. Bears Ears has brought that back where it didn’t exist. It’s brought Indian Country back together.”

Chapoose said that in backing extractive industry over preservation and Native American communities, the Trump administration had drawn a line in the sand.

This granary is one of the most photographed prehistoric structures in the Bears Ears region.

“It’s another slap in the face in the overall relationship between the federal government and the tribes, and local people,” he said.

Davis Filfred, the son of a medicine man and a Navajo Nation council delegate, said he did not want to see Bears Ears become like his tribe’s land, which he said had been contaminated by fossil fuel development. Coalmining in the Four Corners area, he said, offers a cautionary tale.


“There is no reclamation, they scarred the whole Mother Earth,” Filfred said. “The way I see it, they’re going to bulldoze Bears Ears, and there will be nothing there. We’ll tell the next generation, ‘You see that ash pit over there, that’s where Bears Ears was. Now it’s a uranium mine.’

Despite more than a century of looting, artifacts still grace a landscape considered sacred by many Native American tribes.

“Money cannot replace what we have in terms of wilderness area. It’s habitat to many species, plants and medicinal and ceremonial herbs. You can’t wipe all those away.”

A 2000-year-old petroglyph was used for target shooting

Filfred said his Navajo people would continue to hold ceremonies on the land. “More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk, but we came back,” he said, in press release issued by the Native American Rights Fund.

A fragile ancient granary with its door slab still in place. 

“The president’s proposal is an attack on tribes and will be remembered as equally disgraceful but once again we will be back,” said Filfred, a military veteran who served in the Gulf. “We know how to persist, we know how to fight and we will fight to defend Bears Ears.”
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Ancestral Pueblo structures likely dating to the 1200s.

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