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Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition

Introduction by Natasha Hale, Bears Ears Press

You may have heard that Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has introduced an amendment to the Senate Energy Bill which prohibits President Barack Obama's use of the Antiquities Act, in Utah. This is a direct assault on efforts by the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition, an unprecedented partnership of Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni governments, which was formed to honor, protect and preserve our tribal heritage through the protection of a Bears Ears National Monument in Southeast Utah.

What follows is the Coalition's statement on Sen. Lee's latest attack, as well as comments from Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, head councilwoman of Ute Mountain Ute Tribe:


The Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition—composed of Navajo, Hopi, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni governments—strongly opposes Sen. Mike Lee’s amendment to the Energy Bill (S 2012) which seeks to prevent the designation of a national monument for the Bears Ears cultural landscape in southeast Utah.

Our purpose as a historic coalition of Native American tribes is to request a national-monument designation for the 1.9 million acres of (federal) public lands around the Bears Ears Buttes under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Bears Ears is not just a beautiful place, it is a vibrant cultural landscape that is home to more than 100,000 sites, both sacred and cultural, including ancient villages, cliff dwellings, rock art, and gravesites of our ancestors.

The Coalition’s proposal originates from the creative, intellectual base of Indian Country, and from the hearts and souls of our leaders who practice our culture and tradition daily, stemming from our creation stories since time immemorial. Our assembly, which directly arose from requests, made of us and by our tribal members, many of whom are residents of Utah, when local land-use discussions excluded the valuable input of Native Americans, with clear ancestral ties to this land that can be traced back thousands of years.

Mr. Lee’s amendment is a transparent attempt to undermine the sovereign request of our Nations, to the President, to permanently protect Bears Ears. In addition, Mr. Lee’s amendment disrespects the wishes of over 270 tribes and 66% of Utahns that support our call for protection in the form of a Bears Ears National Monument. Mr. Lee has already tried once this year in his failed attempt to tack on a similar amendment to the Senate energy bill. Please vote NO on Sen. Lee’s amendment, SA 3447.

“This latest such attempt by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) will eviscerate the very law that was originally passed to help protect Native American sacred religious and cultural sites—the Antiquities Act,” said Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, head councilwoman of Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the co-chair of the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition. “These are not merely symbolic protections we seek. The ancestral lands of the Bears Ears region continue to face rampant and ongoing looting and destruction of artwork and gravesites; these are acts that literally rob Native American people of spiritual connections, as well as a sense of place and history. They are insults to the dignity of our societies and traditional knowledge.”


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