Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, in blue shirt, during his tour of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah in May 2017. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

Richard Frias and Todd Leahy: National monuments preserve Native culture

President Donald Trump might reduce the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, based on the recommendation of Secretary Ryan Zinke, the leader of the Department of the Interior. Attorneys Richard Frias and Todd Leahy say doing so would discount the views of the tribes and tribal citizens who pushed for the designation:
The recent executive order to review national monuments has left many questioning the fate of Bears Ears National Monument, and 26 other national monuments. It is good to remember that the President lacks the authority to alter the designation of Bears Ears. However, with a Republican controlled Congress it is likely that he could change the delegation of authority. Abolishing or diminishing Bears Ears would be in keeping with the President’s long standing animosity towards Indian tribes. His choices for the Interior Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs have made statements that support termination of Indian tribes or threaten tribal sovereignty and tribal land.

To many Native people, the land is the home of the natural and the supernatural. In order to respect the beliefs and diversity of Indian country, both must be accounted for when making land management decisions. Prior to the 1970s, the federal government paid little attention to Native beliefs and practices, in fact they actively discouraged them. However, legislation has since attempted to secure some sense of respect for Native religious practices.

At the end of 2016, the Obama Administration opened the door for further understanding of Native American cultural practices. By designating Bears Ears National Monument and allowing for a Native American advisory board, the Obama Administration hoped to give Native people a voice in federal land management.

Read More on the Story:
Richard Frias & Todd Leahy: National Monuments Help Preserve Native Cultures (Indian Country Media Network 7/29)

Another Opinion:
Darryl Fears: Why Americans are fighting over a gorgeous monument called Bears Ears (The Washington Post 7/30)

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