In the past 90 days, all seven Utah Chapter Houses of the Navajo Nation that surround the Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County were given the chance to vote on resolutions to block President Trump from taking action to diminish Bears Ears National Monument. Local Native American citizen support was nearly unanimous with 163 Navajos in favor, and three opposed.
Bears Ears National Monument was designated in 2016 to honor the spiritual significance of the land to Native American tribes, protect historically significant artifacts, provide cultural access, and preserve the area’s unique recreational opportunities. President Trump is expected to remove protections from 85 percent of the region Dec. 4, without meaningful consultation with the tribes and affected tribal residents.
Each Utah Chapter House, comparable to a county government, held its regular town-hall-style meetings where each member of the community is given the opportunity to vote. Not surprisingly to local residents, 98 percent of the local Navajos, who comprise roughly half of San Juan County’s population of nearly 16,000 people, voted to keep existing protections for Bears Ears National Monument in place.
The resolution, titled “Chapter House Support for Bears Ears National Monument and its Established Boundaries,” (available here) states as follows:
“The ____ Chapter emphasizes the importance of the Bears Ears region to our community members; The ____ Chapter affirms our support of the Bears Ears National Monument, with its established boundaries; The ____ Chapter affirms its support of the established Bears Ears Commission with its established purpose;
The ____ Chapter urges all to recognize and respect tribal sovereignty, which is a key component to properly honoring the Bears Ears region.”
The below graphic and resolution packet shows the locations and voting results of each chapter house meeting attendee in Utah. All votes occurred between August and November 2017 (12 individuals and one entire chapter abstained from voting.)
Utah Diné Bikéyah, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, states that its mission is to heal people and the earth by supporting indigenous communities and the protection of culturally significant ancestral lands. Utah Diné Bikéyah offers tools, training, and technical support to the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, and Uintah Ouray Ute tribes, which led the call to protect the Bears Ears cultural landscape as a national monument. Utah Diné Bikéyah comprises one Native American board member from each of San Juan County’s ten Native American communities.
Only one Navajo elected official, San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally, opposes Bears Ears National Monument. These new resolutions demonstrate that her position is not mainstream among Utah Navajos. More attuned to Utah Navajo sentiment, the Navajo Utah Commission, a seven-member Navajo Nation entity, unanimously supports Bears Ears National Monument as does the entire Navajo Nation Council consisting of 24 officials.
“The Utah Navajos have spoken loud and clear,” said Willie Grayeyes, chairman of Utah Diné Bikéyah. “President Trump, you already recognized the contributions of Native American Code Talkers. Let’s continue this dialogue and support Bears Ears and honor the many contributions of tribes. Please listen to Native American leaders and respect the reasons we have protected Bears Ears. Please leave it alone and allow us all to heal.”
More information regarding the long history of local support and efforts of local Native Americans to protect Bears Ears National Monument is available at utahdinebikyah.org.