Zinke hides behind Trump to Gut National Monument and Intrude on Native American Heritage

Donald Trump used this week to highlight what little regard he has for Native Americans. While you are all fairly well aware of his reprehensible comment about Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas”, Trump quietly announced that he would be gutting Bears Ears National Monument, a sacred site for Native Americans. Ryan Zinke hides behind Trump to make this happen after his failed national monuments review.

This is not Secretary Zinke’s first time undermining the sovereignty of Indian tribes as he has in the past:

Or perhaps his efforts to undermine the sovereignty of Indian tribes by cutting tribes out of the decision-making on a Land Buy-Back program that was designed to improve tribal land management and sovereignty. From HuffPost:

The proposed change to the program “represents everything that Indian Country has come to fear from Secretary Zinke’s leadership,” said one former Department of Interior official who requested anonymity to comment candidly. It’s “a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist; an effort to undermine an Obama Administration initiative for the sake of being contrary; and a move that will widely impact Indian communities without any formal government-to-government consultation,” the former official said in an email. 

“Secretary Zinke is on track to go down as the worst secretary of Interior in modern history,” via Salt Lake Tribune

When President Obama created Bears Ears National Monument The New York Times reported:

“This is an exciting day for Navajo Nation,” Russell Begaye, the tribe’s president, said. “We have always looked to Bears Ears as a place of refuge, as a place where we can gather herbs and plants and as a place for sacredness,” he said. It is a place of safety and fortitude. It is a place where our ancestors hid and survived from the U.S. cavalry during the Long War.”

Management of Bears Ears is co-managed by the BLM, U.S. Forest Service and the Navajo Nation, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni.

When President Obama proclaimed Bears Ears to be a national monument, he stated:

Rising from the center of the southeastern Utah landscape and visible from every direction are twin buttes so distinctive that in each of the native languages of the region their name is the same: Hoon’Naqvut, Shash Jáa, Kwiyagatu Nukavachi, Ansh An Lashokdiwe, or “Bears Ears.” For hundreds of generations, native peoples lived in the surrounding deep sandstone canyons, desert mesas, and meadow mountaintops, which constitute one of the densest and most significant cultural landscapes in the United States. Abundant rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial sites, and countless other artifacts provide an extraordinary archaeological and cultural record that is important to us all, but most notably the land is profoundly sacred to many Native American tribes, including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Hopi Nation, and Zuni Tribe.

According to a 2017 article in The Atlantic, the National Monuments “act was explicitly passed to shield sites of historical or indigenous importance from pot hunting, in which Americans would loot artifacts from archaeological sites or abandoned dwellings and then sell them on the illicit market.”

Ryan Zinke needs to stand in front of his decision to gut Bears Ears National Monument, not hide behind Trump.


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