Successful Public Meeting in Bluff

Last week was perhaps the most important moment for Bears Ears since Navajo leader Chief Manuelito was born here nearly 200 years ago. Both the Summer Gathering at Bears Ears and the public hearing hosted by the Obama administration in the town of Bluff were a tremendous success thanks to YOU!

meeting-13Last weekend, tribal leaders and grassroots people came to Bears Ears for the annual Summer Gathering to celebrate cultural traditions on these ancestral homelands. On Friday, well over 200 individuals welcomed Obama administration officials to Bears Ears.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, and the directors of the Park Service, BLM, and Indian Affairs visited with attendees and enjoyed a traditional Hopi dinner. They sat with all those in attendance and listened to elected tribal leaders’ concerns and hopes for the future of Bears Ears.

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After tribal representatives spoke, Secretary Jewell briefly addressed the crowd:

We're really looking to make sure that <strong>areas that need to be protected are protected; that tribal engagement is an important part...and we hear you loud and clear; that traditional activities that have gone on since time immemorial need to continue. - Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell

Secretary Jewell happily posed for photos and selfies with grandchildren, grandparents, and everyone in between. After dinner, all the leaders shared a Bears Ears-inspired dessert inside the teepee, where tribal and federal dignitaries discussed why President Obama should designate Bears Ears National Monument now.

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Public Hearing in Bluff

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Saturday kicked off bright and early with the Obama administration’s public hearing in Bluff, UT. Despite triple digit temperatures, at least 1,500 people turned out to express their views on Bears Ears – an incredible demonstration of democracy!

meeting-10UDB distributed 1,000 blue Protect Bears Ears t-shirts to supporters at the event. The crowd both inside and out of the small community center was as blue as the sky.

The three-and-a-half-hour hearing was broadcast over loudspeaker to the hundreds of people who couldn’t fit inside.

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More than six dozen individuals spoke during the meeting, including eleven invited speakers on both sides of the issue. Each person was given exactly two minutes to address the audience and federal officials, who were assembled in a listening panel on the stage. Non-appointed speakers were selected by lottery.

meeting-07Tribal leaders from Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Uintah Ouray Ute, Hopi, and Navajo spoke powerfully on behalf of Bears Ears, collaborative management, and national monument designation:

The sacredness of our land isn't yours or mine. It's all of ours. - Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, Councilwoman for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

Our proposal is not about exclusion. Our proposal is about education & partnership. - Carlton Bowekaty, Councilman for the Zuni Tribe

We need President Obama to be brave. - Davis Filfred, Navajo Nation Council delegate for Utah Navajo

This is part of a movement that’s going to make history. - Malcolm Lehi, Councilman for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

meeting-06Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye (right) & Navajo Nation Speaker LoRenzo Bates delivered a strong statement that was rudely drowned out by the booing of monument opponents – the most disrespectful moment of the hearing.

We greet these places by their names as if they were people. Through this relationship we are able to negotiate healing... Because of Navajo people’s connection to these lands, we request there be comanagement. This will be remembered among people for generations as honoring our sacred lands. - Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye

meeting-05Bears Ears supporters all listened and spoke respectfully, in spite of loud cheering and booing by monument opponents. The degree of misinformation expressed by opposition was astounding. UDB will continue working hard in the weeks ahead to correct false rumors that traditional access would be curtailed by monument designation.

“Permanent protection is what we stand for,” explained UDB Chairman Willie Grayeyes. “I hope the determination will be made to heal us – all of us!”

Secretary Jewell briefly addressed the audience at the beginning and end of the hearing. After a week on the land listening to stakeholders, she observed:

“There is a desire to protect what’s here for future generations. That has been consistent no matter who I have spoken with…. The question perhaps is how?

There are many voices here that say we want to continue to use these lands as we have, and those [uses] are not mutually exclusive with protections. Whether through legislative action or through administrative action, I respect the voices that we’ve heard here today and I respect the Native American community. ”

– Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell

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By all accounts Saturday’s public hearing in Bluff, UT was a huge success. Hundreds of grassroots Native Americans turned out to show their support for designation of Bears Ears National Monument, despite oppositional misinformation & scare tactics. In the end it was a big win for #ProtectBearsEarsNow and for the future of America.


Thanks to everyone – on all sides of the issue – who came to share & listen!

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