cultural sensitivity

Cultural Sensitivity Courses

When it comes to Indigenous voices we firmly believe in appropriate representation. 

Appropriate representation is vital to how media portrays and deals with and present gender, age, ethnicity, national and regional identity, social issues and events to an audience.

At UDB, in order to ensure that our Indigenous communities are being represented the best way possible, we facilitate Cultural Sensitivity trainings to anyone interested in either Indigenous storytelling or for cultural awareness. 

Taking our Cultural Sensitivity training is a mandatory requirement when working alongside our organization.

If you are interested in taking these courses, please reach out to and

Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) was created in 2016 by President Obama at the request of the 5 Tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (BEITC) after years of advocacy by Native American citizens in San Juan County, Utah. Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB), is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization whose members spent three years interviewing elders and building support for protecting the region. UDB is not a tribe, but a Native American land conservation organization, which works toward healing of people and the Earth by supporting indigenous communities in protecting their culturally significant, ancestral lands. In 2015, we asked the sovereign nations of the BEITC which consists of the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain, and Zuni1 Tribes to take over the proposal as sovereign decision-makers capable of engaging directly with the United States on a government to government basis.

Many Tribes across the U.S. have leant their support to Bears Ears including the Lummi Nation which gifted a bear totem pole at the 2018 Summer Gathering held near the Bears Ears buttes. The Bear Totem Pole is a gesture of goodwill and support from the Lummi Nation to the tribes of the Bears Ears region. Similarly, the Lummi People are fighting to protect their Ancestral territory – the Salish Sea from pollution and degradation. This totem is good medicine and blesses all in its path.

UDB, BEITC, sister tribes, and many allies in the conservation community are working to restore BENM to its original 1.35-million acre size after it was illegally reduced by 85% in 2017 by President Trump. Along with reducing Bears Ears, President Trump also shrunk Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in 2017 by 50%. We are currently in litigation to overturn this decision. Thus, we continue to oppose the reduction of BENM and the rushed, expedited land management process by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service for the Shash Jaa’ and Indian Creek Units until the courts settle this ongoing litigation.

1Please use these official names of each Tribe when referring to sovereign tribal governments.

Tribes of the Bears Ears Region

As intact communities with rich culture, language, foods, and ceremony, the tribes of the Bears Ears Region also refer to themselves by names bestowed on them by our Creator. For example, people from the Navajo Nation refer to themselves as Navajo or Diné while our political body is called the Navajo Nation. In addition to being called Ute, the Ute people are also known as the Nuchu, the Hopi people as Hopi Senom, and Zuni people as A:shiwi.

Ancestral Puebloan Peoples (Hopi, Zuni, 18 Pueblos in
New Mexico, and Ysleta del Sur in TX)

Pueblo natives are an ancient people whose histories begin with the Archaic Age I – Early Basketmaker Age I (7000-1500 BC) to the present-day Pueblo V age (1600 AD – Present). Ancestral Pueblo lands, migration routes, and ancient structures extend across the Colorado Plateau, which includes the Four Corners region, and extends into north-central Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and northwest New Mexico. Some Pueblo origins begin near present-day Salt Lake City at the end of last Ice Age (Pleistocene Age). Many Pueblo civilizations have extensive histories in the Bears Ears National Monument and hold important stories about the Bears Ears region. Pueblo non-secular leaders have active altars within the Bears Ears Monument and visit these sites regularly. The large villages, kivas and other Ancestral sites at Bears Ears National Monument are all of Pueblo origin.

Diné (Navajo)

Diné is the most culturally appropriate way to refer to Diné peoples. According to the 2010 census, there approximately 173,667 Diné people living within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. However, across the U.S. there are approximately 500,000 Diné people. Diné people have strong cultural ties to the Bears Ears region. Most Diné citizens in southern Utah can trace their ancestral ties to Bears Ears with some families having lived there as recently as the 1960’s. UDB Board Chair Willie Grayeyes says the Diné people have been in the Bears Ears Region since time immemorial. Additionally, the ancestral territory of the Diné people expands into Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, all of which is considered Diné Bikéyah (Diné Territory).


The Villages of Hopi (Bakabi, Moenkopi, Kykotsmovi, Sipaulavi, Mishongnovi, Shungopov, Oraibi, Hotevilla, and Lower Moenkopi) are located on a portion of Hopi ancestral lands in northeast Arizona. Our Hopi people are the descendants of the Ancestral Puebloan civilizations at Bears Ears, as well as deep into what is now known as Utah. The name of Hopi is a shortened name for Hopituh-Shi-nu-mu or The Peaceful People. According to the 2010 Census count, there are 19,327 enrolled Hopi tribal members. The Hopi speak Hopilavayi, their native language.

Nuchu (Ute)

The Nuchu (Utes) are a diverse group of people. Traditional teaching, life ways, and spiritual beliefs are all different depending on family, band, and tribe. Currently, there are seven bands of Nuchu spread across three sovereign nations who live in Utah and Colorado – the Ute Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (approximately 3,157 tribal members), the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (approximately 1,200 tribal members), and the Southern Ute Tribe (approximately 1,400 tribal members).

When Ute people speak, they are likely speaking in this context, so please be clear in your media coverage that you spoke with an individual speaking for themselves and do not suggest anything broader. Nuchu are very private with their spiritual beliefs. Be sensitive to this and allow space for your interviewees to decline an answer.

The Utes’s traditional territory encompasses the Bears Ears region. Some of the elders you will meet from Ute Mountain Ute were raised inside the Monument. To be respectful, it is advisable to provide a small gift when interviewing Ute elders, if possible.


The Zuni Pueblo (Shiwinna) are located near the western New Mexico Zuni Plateau, southwest of the city of Gallup. Their ancestral structures and holy lands extend all the way from the Grand Canyon to the Wasatch Mountain range and beyond Salt Lake City, Utah. According to the 2010 Census statistics, there are 6,367 enrolled tribal members. Zuni tribal members speak the language of Zuni, a language isolate uniquely only to them.

Recommended Terms

See the Native American Journalists Association3 guide for general guidance on reporting on Native American issues. Specifically, for Bears Ears, we recommend the following terms:

Do Use

  • Native
  • Ancient Structure(s) or Ancestral Sites
  • Creation Narrative
  • Co-Management
  • Indigenous
  • Earth Mother
  • Ancestral Territory

Do Not Use

  • Indian
  • Ruin(s)
  • Creation Story, Myth, Lore or Legend, Pre-History
  • Collaborative Management
  • Primitive
  • Mother Earth
  • Public Lands

Pan-Indianism and cultural appropriation are positive and negative ways of describing the same kind of inter-mixing of indigenous cultures across North America. This is an issue Tribes condemn when outsiders appropriate our cultures, but it is also an issue to approach delicately as it happens within and between Tribes. Learn more at and be careful in your coverage of this issue.

The official Utah Diné Bikéyah hashtags for Bears Ears are: #BearsEarsHeals #StandWithBearsEars #HonorTribes #IndigenousFoodHeals.

Reporter Guidelines

  • Reciprocity is key to the exchange of knowledge. Although it is not customary for reporters to do so, gifting is traditionally customary in Indigenous communities for a story or information and is usually of nominal and non-monetary value. For example: a reporter might offer a gift of personal value such as something from your garden in exchange for a personal story. You can offer sage or natural, loose leaf tobacco as an exchange for spiritual knowledge. If you’re a photographer, you should offer to send your collaborator copies of photos you take. Exchange of knowledge in this way could help you get a deeper understanding of Native connections to Bears Ears
  • Even though a Native person may look or dress the part, he, she, or they may not be the best source to talk to about Bears Ears National Monument. Ask a press liaison from UDB to introduce you to individuals who have knowledge of the story you are writing.
  • Tribes that call Bears Ears home each have their own Ancestral ties and histories to BENM. It is recommended that specific stories be attributed to the appropriate Tribe, with the Tribe of each individual spokesperson being named or listed in your content.
  • Unless you have spoken with an elected official with authority to speak in an official capacity, please be clear in your media coverage that you spoke with an individual speaking for themselves.
  • Each Tribe engages with the media differently. Some Tribes are very reserved when it comes to sharing information due to privacy, preservation of knowledge, and possible cultural sensitivities. Generally, Diné are more liberal to media requests than than the Hopi, Zuni, and Ute peoples.
  • Make sure to allow for long pauses, less direct eye contact and adequate response time. It may feel like the elder is finished with their thought, but give a few or even several seconds before you continue with more questions.
  • Many Utah Diné Bikéyah events, including the annual Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Summer Gathering are exchanges of cultural and ceremonial knowledge among tribes; it is not a performance. As a reporter or media representative, you are a guest and please ask permission before recording anything.
  • Cultural sensitivity requires respect and an open heart, as well as learning the cues of when not to tape, shoot photos or videos – particularly during ceremonies. If you have questions, please check with other media reporters to make sure, or even better, with designated representative of Tribes or UDB press corps. Generally, you should not record specific ceremonies, prayers, stories, and/or dances in any form – written, audio, visual and etc.
  • Always ask permission to interview, take photos or videos – especially among children who will need clearance from their parents, guardians or grandparents.
  • In an effort to prevent ongoing looting within Bears Ears, do not name the ancient structures, petroglyphs, or specific sacred sites in Bears Ears. Please only list the generic name and general location. For example, “Cliff Dwelling, Bears Ears National Monument,” rather than “Butler Wash Ruin, Comb Ridge, UT.” This will help ensure that visitors are stopping at the Visitor’s Center to learn how to properly visit sites. Also, please remove geotagged data from your photos (which show exact locations of the photo) before posting online.