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How Do San Juan County Native Americans Feel About Zinke's Visit?

The Secretary of Interior is visiting Utah this week to evaluate the state’s two largest monuments.

With Secretary Zinke ordered to review the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments -- together totaling over 3 million acres of land -- many groups have released statements regarding the designations. Last week, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, consisting of leaders from several Native American tribes, held a press conference urging that the monuments remain and for Zinke to meet with tribal leaders.

Matthew Anderson, a policy analyst with the Sutherland Institute, says Native Americans in San Juan are mostly opposed to the monument.

"Local Native American tribes do not want the national monument," he said. "Unfortunately, the media and extreme environmental groups are out there peddling the idea that this was a Native American led effort and that Native Americans want this monument. And while there are Native Americans that want it outside the county, the simple fact is tribes within San Juan County don’t want it."

Eva Workman, a local Navajo and member of the Stewards of San Juan, feels disregarded by tribal leadership and is skeptical of the need for their involvement.

"Less government is for the best for the people, it gives the people a bigger, louder voice and that’s where the voices should be: is with the people; not with these government agencies, not with the tribal leaders -- quote-unquote -- sitting at the table, but the actual people," she said.

Native Americans in San Juan County criticize tribal leaders for receiving large amounts of money to advise the federal government despite being distantly located from the monument.

"Issues that have been created due to misuse of the Antiquities Act can be remedied and it takes a strong voice to do so. I do believe that Zinke will be the one who’ll be able to understand and do what's fair," said Workman.

Zinke, who arrived in Utah on Sunday, will visit Bears Ears Monday and the Grand Staircase-Escalante later this week.