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Utah News

Bears Ears Advisory Committee Meeting This Week, Native Voices Not Included Argue Advocates

Bears Ears National Monument; Southern utah
Mark Stevens
/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

As the appointed committee for the management of Bears Ears National Monument meets for the first time today, stakeholders hope they can agree on the monument’s future. But for tribal advocates of the monument, they don’t believe the committee itself was fairly chosen.

 

“Bears Ears is Bears Ears mostly because of our Native American voices that made the cultural connections to the landscape,” said Alistair Bitsoi, the communications director for Dine Bikeyah, a non profit that advocates for the monument on behalf of the tribes.

The monument was originally established by President Obama in 2016 at the request of five Native American tribes, and quickly dismantled by President Trump the next year. Now, two smaller distinct monuments remain, Indian Creek and Shash Jaa.

Most of the southwestern Native American tribes trace their ancestry back to the people that lived in the area thousands of years ago, but Bitsoi argued, today’s land managers only see the perspective of those who agree with them.

“The committee is just another example of a time and place to silence our already marginalized voices when it comes to land management,” he said.

When the 15-member committee was being chosen, Bitsoi said they submitted names of seven tribal leaders with stakes and specific knowledge of the area, but none of the seven were chosen. Instead, the Bureau of Land Management named two people to represent “tribal concerns.” Both of which have publicly opposed the monument.

Dine Bikeyah plans to voice their concerns at the meeting and as decisions are made throughout the process.