In a new video released today, members of the Aneth and Oljato chapters of the Navajo Nation voice their opposition to the proposed designation of the Bears Ears as a national monument.
San Juan County Navajos are direct descendants of the Native Americans who used the Bears Ears as spiritual ceremonial grounds and as a source of herbs, food and firewood. Because of their direct ties and close proximity to the land, the Aneth and Oljato chapters continue to use the Bears Ears more than any other Native American group.
“It would be something like the federal government again is going to take something — a land that truly belonged to us. It’s going to take it away from us again,” said Susie Philemon, a member of the Aneth Navajo chapter, in the video. “I really want for my children to go back over there, not just to hunt and pick berries and things like that, but to be able to know that that is where they originated from.”
Andrew Tso, also of the Aneth chapter, added, “We love that land. We’re tied with it. If it’s to be made as a national monument, it seems like part of your body will be cut out. It’s not going to function right. It’s going to hurt.”
“The Antiquities Act has been abused and misused by U.S. presidents for decades. Utahns well remember when President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument in the waning months of his presidency, a move which has hurt families and devastated the local economies in Garfield and Kane counties,” said Matt Anderson, policy analyst for the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, a project of Sutherland Institute. “Presidents were never meant to wield unilateral power to make millions and millions of acres inaccessible to the very people who use the land, like the Aneth and Oljato Navajo.”