Pictographs in Grand Gulch, one of the areas cut by President Donald Trump when he gutted the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by a December 4, 2017, proclamation. Photo by Bruce Hucko

Only one tribal leader invited to hearing on GOP bill to gut Bears Ears National Monument

Republicans in Congress are moving quickly with a bill they say will establish the "first" tribally managed national monument in the United States.

But none of the tribes who already thought they had a role at the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah are supporting the effort. Instead they want President Donald Trump, his administration, and everyone else for that matter, to recognize and maintain the boundaries of the original 1.35 million-acre monument.

“If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they are going to get. They declared war on us today," Shaun Chapoose, a council member from the Ute Tribe, said on December 4, 2017, when Trump issued a proclamation gutting the monument that had been set aside by his predecessor.

Chapoose, a recent chairman of the tribe, will be firing another shot in the emerging war as he testifies in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. In fact he is the only Indian witness who has been invited to the hearing on H.R.4532, the Shash Jáa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act.

The bill would formalize Trump's drastic directive, which he issued without consulting or even notifying tribes in advance, and create two much smaller units -- Shash Jáa and Indian Creek -- within the original Bears Ears designation. Shash Jáa, whose name comes from the Navajo words for "bear" and "ears," would be the part over which tribes would have a management role if the measure becomes law.

Video footage courtesy Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition: President Trump Dismantles Bears Ears National Monument

But even then, tribes would not be alone because the "Shash Jáa Tribal Management Council" would include two representatives from the San Juan County board of commissioners, where the non-Indian power structure has been found to violate the constitutional rights of Native residents. The board long opposed the designation of Bears Ears and eagerly took part in Trump's announcement last month in Salt Lake City, hundreds of miles from the area.

H.R.4532, which was introduced on the same day as Trump's announcement, also denies seats to Chapoose's tribe, the Hopi Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni, even though all three had been part of original Bears Ears Commission that never really got off the ground thanks to the new administration.

Collectively, the Ute Tribe, the Hopi Tribe, the Pueblo of Zuni, the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe are suing Trump in hopes of preserving the original boundaries of Bears Ears. One of their key arguments is that the president lacks authority to reduce the size of a national monument.

Though legal scholars and Trump allies disagree on that issue, enactment of H.R.4532 would essentially resolve the dispute against the tribes by creating the new Shash Jáa and Indian Creek monuments.

“Mr. Trump seems to take a perverse joy in ignoring federal law and dismissing the wishes of Native American tribes, conservation leaders and millions of everyday Americans," said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), the top Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Tuesday's hearing takes place before the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, which is part of Grijalva's committee. It will be webcast at 10am Eastern.

The full witness list follows:
Panel I
The Honorable John Curtis
Member of Congress, Utah's 3rd District

Panel II
The Honorable Gary R. Herbert
State of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT

Mr. Matthew Anderson
Coalition for Self-Government in the West
Sutherland Institute
Salt Lake City, UT

The Honorable Shaun Chapoose
Ute Tribal Business Committee Member
Ute Indian Tribe
Fort Duchesne, UT

House Subcommittee on Federal Lands Notice:
Legislative Hearing on H.R. 4532 (January 9, 2017)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
The Conversation: Threats to Bears Ears and sacred places violate human rights (December 18, 2017)
Deb Haaland 'ready to fight' as first Native American woman in halls of Congress (December 15, 2017)
YES! Magazine: President Trump's shrinking of Bears Ears won't survive in courts (December 8, 2017)
Jacqueline Keeler: President Trump again uses Navajo elders as props for political purposes (December 6, 2017)
Secretary Zinke slams 'special interests' after tribes go to court to save Bears Ears (December 5, 2017)
Tribes plan lawsuit as Trump schedules visit to reduce size of Bears Ears in Utah (November 29, 2017)
Tribes still in the dark as Trump administration moves to roll back Bears Ears (November 16, 2017)
Gregory Ablavsky: President Trump continues dark chapter with treatment of tribes (November 9, 2017)
Navajo Nation welcomes public hearings into voting districts in Utah county (November 7, 2017)
Environmental groups sue Trump administration over national monument plans (November 3, 2017)
President Trump plans to shrink boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument (October 27, 2017)
Bears Ears remains in limbo as Republicans leave tribes out of monument bill (October 13, 2017)
Cronkite News: Republicans quickly move bill to limit new national monuments (October 12, 2017)
Navajo Nation plans to sue Trump administration to protect Bears Ears in Utah (September 21, 2017)
Secretary Zinke goes against tribal interests with monument recommendations (September 18, 2017)
Cronkite News: Secretary Zinke sends secret monument report to White House (August 25, 2017)
Richard Frias and Todd Leahy: National monuments preserve Native culture (July 31, 2017)
Navajo Nation citizen Carol Surveyor announces run for Congress in Utah (July 24, 2017)
Cronkite News: Trump's review of monuments draws 1.4 million comments (July 24, 2017)
Trump administration receives 1.4M comments on national monuments (July 12, 2017)
Loni Romo: We owe it to future generations to keep Bears Ears protected (July 10, 2017)
Lawsuits expected after President Trump changes Bears Ears boundary (June 28, 2017)
Secretary Zinke rejects complaints about consultation and Bears Ears (June 24, 2017)
Tribes lash out at Trump administration for lapses in consultation (June 13, 2017)
Ryan Benally: Bears Ears was a false promise for Native Americans (May 26, 2017)
Documents show few meetings between Secretary Zinke and tribes (May 22, 2017)
Deadline looms in Secretary Zinke's review of Bears Ears and other monuments (May 15, 2017)
Terry Tempest Williams: Will Bears Ears be the next Standing Rock? (May 8, 2017)
Tribes vow fight in effort to protect Bears Ears National Monument (May 3,2017)
Tribes encounter silence from Secretary Zinke in Bears Ears review (May 2, 2017)
Ute Tribe demands 'voice' as Trump orders review of Bears Ears (April 28, 2017)
Trump singles out Bears Ears as an 'abuse' of government's power(April 26, 2017)
Jacqueline Keeler: New monument marks victory for tribal sites (January 10, 2017)
Tribes celebrate designation of national monument at Bears Ears (January 9, 2017)