‘We’ll see the battle lines’: Trump faced by Native American alliance over Bears Ears
The president is expected to announce the shrinking of two national monuments on a visit to Utah but native tribes are uniting to oppose a monumental mistake
On Monday, Donald Trump will visit Salt Lake City. He is expected to formally announce plans to substantially shrink two Utah national monuments: Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears.
A review of national monuments was conducted by the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, who recommended changes to 10 such areas. In seeking to open up more land for development and extractive industries, Trump has the support of Utah’s all-Republican congressional delegation.
Orrin Hatch, the senator who invited Trump to Utah, said in a video statement the “outcome” the president will announce “strikes an excellent balance where everybody wins”.
Thousands of demonstrators, however, gathered at the state capitol on Saturday in a show of solidarity with Native American tribes that say the move against Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is nothing less than a “monumental mistake”.
A coalition of five Utah tribes with ties to the land – the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi and the Pueblo of Zuni – has vowed to oppose any shrinkage of the national monument. Before the formation of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, in 2015, the tribes had never come together. Their leaders say legal action is likely if Trump announces a reduction.
Shaun Chapoose, councilman of the Ute Indian Tribe business committee, said this was a significant moment for Native Americans. Many citizens mobilized around tribes opposing the Dakota Access pipeline and alliances were forged around Bears Ears. Despite reverses suffered by the Dakota Access protesters, he said, he sees a reawakening of hope.
“Indian country is coming out of its sleep,” Chapoose said. “It’s given an opportunity for us to voice concerns, and it’s made it OK for tribes to talk amongst themselves, like they used to do a long time ago.
“At one time, there was this big network of communication going on between tribes. After the reservations system, they got isolated from surrounding neighbors. Bears Ears has brought that back where it didn’t exist. It’s brought Indian Country back together.”
Chapoose said that in backing extractive industry over preservation and Native American communities, the Trump administration had drawn a line in the sand.
“It’s another slap in the face in the overall relationship between the federal government and the tribes, and local people,” he said.
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