The Fight for Bears Ears has been going on for a very long time; people have been happy with Pres. Obama’s protective national monument status. Now the GOP is arguing that us dumb Indians, gosh, we just don’t understand. If places are declared national monuments, it will seriously impact our primitive lives, and we wouldn’t be able to do native stuff, like gather firewood, so um, just give us the land, and everything will be great! There really isn’t deep enough mockery for these arrogant colonialists.
Speaking alongside Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about the Trump administration’s order to review — and potentially shrink or eliminate — nearly 30 national monuments, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said Native Americans were “manipulated” into their support for the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument southeastern Utah.
“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.”
Oh, right. We should just take the word of a white man. Gosh, that’s worked so well in the past.
Hatch’s dismissal of native voices is not only condescending, it is incredibly inaccurate in the case of Bears Ears. Protections for Bears Ears were nearly 80 years in the making. Most recently, the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition, which brought together five tribal nations, pushed for the protection of the Bears Ears region. After the group received no substantial response from the Utah Congressional delegation about protecting the area, the group opted to propose that President Barack Obama should create a national monument, which he did in December 2016.
But variations of Hatch’s argument have been routinely made by critics of the national monuments — namely, Republican politicians in Utah. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has long purported that a national monument would get rid of critical tribal activities, such as firewood gathering. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) similarly stoked fears that the federal government would seize native American land for the monument. Utah state legislator Mike Noel (R), who is looking to join the Trump administration, launched an investigation into the tribal support of a Bears Ears National Monument, calling it a “charade.”
These accusations are part of a continued misinformation campaign targeting tribal members that started during the lead-up to the monument designation. In the summer of 2016, flyers meant to antagonize local Navajo were found posted around towns adjacent to the now national monument. One of the flyers impersonated an Interior Department press release that claimed the government would be taking over four million acres of Navajo reservation land. Others suggested the national monument would ban firewood gathering and Native American access.