Tribes encounter silence from Secretary Zinke in Bears Ears review

The new Bears Ears National Monument protects 1.35 million acres of ancestral tribal sites in Utah. Photo: Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management

The five tribes that pushed for the Bears Ears National Monument have been trying to reach the new leader of the Department of the Interior but all they have been getting is silence.

Secretary Ryan Zinke told Reuters he is going to Utah next week to learn more about the controversial monument. He plans to meet with tribal leaders but did not confirm whether that includes the representatives of the Bears Ears Commission.

"I'm going to ride a horse, like Teddy Roosevelt, and see the land and talk to the Navajo and the nations of tribes," Zinke told Reuters.

The Bears Ears Commission was established by the Obama administration to ensure the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Tribe the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Zuni Pueblo have a role in management decisions at the monument. It grew out of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition that was established to lobby for the designation.

"If Secretary Zinke truly believes that ‘sovereignty should mean something,’ as he had said, we hope he will finally respond to the tribes' multiple requests to meet with him,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred, a Utah resident who serves on the commission, told Reuters.

In contrast, Zinke has already met with a slew of opponents of the monument. He hosted Utah's entire Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., last week, a day after President Donald Trump labeled Bears Ears as an "abuse" of the federal government's power.

He's also going to meet with Rebecca Benally, a Navajo citizen who is the only Native-elected official in San Juan County, on Tuesday, Reuters reported. She opposes the monument and has claimed her views represent the stance of Navajos in Utah even though six of the seven chapter houses in the state endorsed Bears Ears.

Read More on the Story:
Tribes Near Utah National Monument Press U.S. Official for Meeting (Reuters 5/1)
Clash over Bears Ears tests years of progress on Native spirituality (The Christian Science Monitor 4/28)
Utah's entire congressional delegation meets with Interior Secretary about Bears Ears (KUTV 4/27)

Some Opinions:
Robert Gehrke: Trump’s review of monuments a cynical charade to exploit Utah treasures (The Salt Lake Tribune 5/1)
Harry Holland: Hatch doesn’t tell the truth about Bears Ears (The Salt Lake Tribune 4/29)
Orrin G. Hatch: It’s time to undo the federal land grab of Bears Ears ( The Washington Post 4/25)

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