Wednesday, July 20, 2016

President Obama, make Bears Ears a national monument

A desert landscape not far from here called Bears Ears could be the most historically significant site in the United States that most Americans have never heard of. Spread out over 1.9 million acres in southeastern Utah are tens of thousands of cliff dwellings, ceremonial “kivas,” pit houses, granaries, towers and rock art panels, along with countless pots and other artifacts of the first Americans going back more than 10,000 years.

Bears Ears represents the most important and intact array of unprotected cultural resources on federal land. And those resources are increasingly at risk — from looting, vandalism, off-road vehicles, grave robbing and the occasional carelessness of visitors. Assigned to patrol and protect this huge area are two full-time rangers.

Named for two buttes rising dramatically from the desert landscape, Bears Ears is especially important to the Indian tribes and pueblos of the Southwest that trace their ancestry to the area and the ancient sites it contains. Twenty-six tribes support protecting lands within Bears Ears, and some of them — led by the Hopi, the Ute Mountain Utes, the Zuni Pueblo, the Navajo Nation and the Ute Tribe of Unitah and Ouray — have formed an unprecedented Inter-Tribal Coalition to advocate the permanent protection of their ancient and sacred homeland.

The coalition emphasizes its deep spiritual connection with Bears Ears, “where tribal leaders and medicine people go to conduct ceremonies, collect herbs for medicinal purposes, and practice healing rituals stemming from time immemorial. . . . Our relationship and visits to Bears Ears are essential for healing, and ruining the integrity of those lands forever compromises our ability to heal.”

There is virtually unanimous agreement on the unique cultural significance of Bears Ears — there is nothing else in the country even approaching it — yet there is no agreement on the need to protect it. 

No comments: