2017-12-07 / Front Page

Trump Continues War On Indian Country

Targets Sacred Sites With Bears Ears Proclamation

Oil and Gas companies have already expressed interest in exploring land within the Bears Ears National Monument. Picture courtesy Center for Biological Diversity. Oil and Gas companies have already expressed interest in exploring land within the Bears Ears National Monument. Picture courtesy Center for Biological Diversity. PINE RIDGE – Late last week, United State President Donald Trump signed a proclamation that the White House says will “modify” the Bears Ears National Monument.

The plan signed by Trump will work to create two different, smaller units by reducing the size of two already existing of two monuments. The Associated Press reported that Trump plans to shrink Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 85 percent and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost half.

In a brief filed by the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain, and Zuni nations argues, however, that the action by the president is illegal, and a violation of the antiquities act.

Matthew Cambell, Staff-attorney for the Native American Rights Fund says, “Bears Ears is one of the most important places for Indian Country, and that is why Indian Country came together to advocate for this important place. Trump’s attack on Bears Ears is an attack on all of us, and we will fight to protect it.”

Bears Ears is located in the southwestern United States and has been home to the Dine’ people for many generations according to tribal historians. On December 28, 2016, President Barrack Obama established the Bears Ears National Monument. The monument consists of 1.35-million acres. Under the White House’s plan, the two new sections will only make up a total of 201,397 acres.

NARF Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth said “The Administration is not telling the truth. The Bears Ears monument as created by President Obama preserved hunting, fishing, gathering and grazing rights, and protected these incredible lands from widespread looting and oil, gas and mineral development.” No matter what the President said today, his action does the opposite: by its own terms, in 60 days the revoked lands are open to “entry, location, selection, sale” and “disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing” and “location, entry and patent under mining laws.” Landreth continued, “this is taking public lands that belong to the American people and selling to the highest bidder, there is just no other way to understand it.”

The Navajo Nation has pledged to take fight to protect the lands that contain thousands of historical and cultural sites and artifacts held sacred by a variety of tribal nations living in the southwest.

“The Navajo Nation has made repeated requests to meet with President Trump on this issue. The Bears Ears Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region,” President Begaye said. “The decision to reduce the size of the Monument is being made with no tribal consultation. The Navajo Nation will defend Bears Ears. The reduction in the size of the Monument leaves us no choice but to litigate this decision.”

Federal law requires that tribes are afforded adequate consultation prior to federal actions being taken on lands impacting tribal nations. President Trump has all but ignored the law as he pushed through the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline without consulting with tribal-nations in the area. These actions from the White House show that they lack an understanding of the complexities of federal Indian law, or that the administration has chosen to ignore it.

“Bears Ears National Monument is not just for Native Americans but for all Americans,” Vice President Jonathan Nez of the Navajo nation said. “This is a sad day for indigenous people and for America. However, we are resilient and refuse to allow President Trump’s unlawful decision to discourage us. We will continue to fight in honor of our ancestral warriors who fought for our way of life, for our culture and for our land too.”

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, the five tribal-nations have said that Trump’s attempt to reduce the size of the monument is thinly veiled attempt to abolish it. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to establish a National Monument under the Antiquities Act. The Act however only permits the president to create a national monument, not abolish it. That action falls on Congress’s shoulders according to the constitution.

“President Trump’s action to revoke and replace the Bears Ears National Monument is not only an attack on the five sovereign nations with deep ties to the Bears Ears region, it is a complete violation of the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution. No president has ever revoked and replaced a national monument before because it is not legal to do so. Only Congress may alter a monument,” wrote NARF.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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