By Admin on April 2017
BLUFF, UTAH – On April 12, Senator Tom Udall’s staff on the Committee on Indian affairs joined representatives of the Navajo Nation, the Zuni Tribe, and local organizations for a tour of the newly established Bears Ears National Monument. The group visited several archaeological sites throughout the 1.3 million-acre Monument, and discussed the importance of the area to all of the local tribes.
The Bears Ears Commission was established in accordance with the December 28, 2016 Bears Ears National Monument proclamation. The Commissioners represent the five sovereign Tribal Nations with ancestral ties to Bears Ears: Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Zuni Tribe. James Adakai, Navajo Nation, Oljato Chapter President, and Davis Filfred, Navajo Nation Delegate, represent the Navajo Nation on the Commission.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said that co-management of the Bears Ears National Monument between tribal and federal agencies has been paramount to his decision in supporting the designation.
“This area is sacred not only to the Navajo Nation, but also to the five tribal nations that are represented on the Commission. As with any area that holds cultural and spiritual significance, tribes need to maintain that their voices are heard in the decision-making process,” President Begaye said. “We have always advocated for this with the Bears Ears National Monument. Beyond recreational usage, natural resource considerations or Presidential designations, we will always stand for the protection of lands we hold in reverence.”
At the Commission’s first official meeting on Wednesday, Mar. 29, the Commissioners developed a mission and vision and set short and long-term goals for the management of the Bears Ears National Monument. The Commission’s first order of business will be to establish good working relationships with the regional U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management offices. The Commission intends to cooperate with both agencies to develop an interim visitor management strategy as well as a long-term Monument Management Plan.
On Apr. 4 and 5, the Bears Ears Commission held its first meetings with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management regional offices that are responsible for management of the newly established Bears Ears National Monument.
In addition to meeting with the local agency offices, the Commission has put forth an invitation to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to discuss management priorities and to establish a productive government-to-government relationship between the new administration and the Tribes.
Vice President Jonathan Nez said he’d like for Secretary Zinke to visit the Navajo Nation within the first 100 days of the Trump administration.
“We extend an invitation to Secretary Zinke to visit the Navajo Nation so that we can show him the issues that we face as a tribal nation,” he said. “I feel that once he sees the Nation firsthand, he’ll have a better idea of how we can work together in addressing these issues and how we can further the development of a management plan regarding the Bears Ears.”
Reflecting on the meaning of Bears Ears National Monument to the Navajo people at the first Commission meeting, Commissioner Adakai said: “Bears Ears is tribal sovereignty and also tribal identity. We are the people of mother earth – that is who we are. The Monument brings the five tribes together, and we are now the voice for future generations.”
Both Commissioner Adakai and Commissioner Filfred emphasized that the focus of the Commission will be to work closely with the federal agencies on developing and implementing a management plan that will honor tribal histories and current use of the Monument.