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Full Proposal


This is a Tribal proposal for a Presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect historical and scientific objects in an area of 1.9 million acres of ancestral land on the Colorado Plateau. We propose that the most appropriate and effective management regime is Collaborative Management by the Tribes and Federal agencies.


This proposal has been a long time in the making. For six years, grassroots people and Tribal leaders have worked intensively to get to this point. The true origins, however, go back much farther. The need for protecting the Bears Ears landscape has been broad and heartfelt for well over a century. The rampant looting and destruction of the villages, structures, rock markings, and gravesites within the Bears Ears landscape saddened and sickened our ancestors, and that sense of loss and outrage continues today. The depth of our spiritual connection to these places is not widely understood, but it is true that these desecrations to our homeland, structures, implements, and gravesites—insults to the dignity of our societies and Traditional Knowledge as well-wound us physically. By visiting Bears Ears, giving our prayers, and conducting our ceremonies, we heal our bodies and help heal the land itself.


For long generations, we did not know how to petition the government for redress of the wrongs committed against the land, our societies, our traditions, and our health. But now we do know how to bring our aspirations forward and take this opportunity to do so. President Obama, Secretary Jewell, Secretary Vilsack, Director Kornze, Assistant Secretary Washburn, Director Jarvis, Deputy under Secretary Blazer, and many other officials have been very responsive, and we deepl y appreciate that.


This proposal is unique and wholly unprecedented. While historians, conservationists, scientists, archaeologists, and others have sponsored many requests for protection under the
Antiquities Act, Tribes have never before petitioned for a presidentially-declared national monument, much less one of the size and scope we propose here. As a result, the differences between earlier monuments and this one are many and deep. The government is acting as trustee for these five Tribes. The Tribes are sovereign governments and possess solid land management capabilities. This petition can be addressed through the Federal-Tribal government-to- government relationship, so that deliberation over the merits of this proposal can take place in open, collegial discussions between the Tribes and Federal officials. And this proposal touches the heart of the Antiquities Act of 1906, designed to honor and protect the physical evidence of our ancestors’ long possession.


Importantly, this proposal also requests that the President proclaim the Bears Ears National Monument to honor the worldviews of our ancestors, and Tribes today, and their relationships with this landscape. It is not a matter of romanticism or political correctness. Native people always have, and do now, conceive of and relate to the natural world in a different way than does the larger society. This subject, as personified and enriched by the Native experience at Bears Ears, has every opportunity to lead to excellent public programs and outreach as well as outstanding opportunities for scientific, historical, and philosophical research by both Native and non-Native scholars and experts.


Significant Tribal involvement in the workings of this monument, then, can produce many benefits to the public at large. For example, as shown by numerous testimonials from grassroots Native people that will accompany this proposal, large numbers of contemporary Indian people visit Bears Ears regularly to gather medicines, herbs, and vegetative materials. These ancient cultural activities are based on elaborate information held by Native Americans, and are now commonly referred to as Traditional Knowledge, a subject that is drawing considerable interest among scientists, land managers, and the general public. “My grandmother told me the story about how my grandfather took them hunting for deer around Bears Ears. My family members still hunt the area near Bears Ears and I was taught the different medicinal plants; this was my classroom, I am now a Navajo traditional herbalist.”(Ruby Ross, Navajo)


The depth, richness, and variety of the Native connection to Bears Ears, coupled with the on-the-ground practices developed in joint Federal-Tribal land management at this national monument, can lead to the creation of a world-class institute on systems of land management that accounts for both western science and Traditional Knowledge. This center, as discussed below, would be located at the proposed monument.


Similarly, honoring the Native worldview through this monument will cause citizens to understand and assess the worth of traditional Native views of humans and the land. A byword among Tribal natural resource members is that “We don’t manage land. The land manages us.” And Native people, too, feel and experience the weight of history in unique ways. “We can still hear the songs and prayers of our ancestors on every mesa and in every canyon.”(Malcolm Lehi, Ute Mountain Ute)


In long, focused, and well-attended deliberations over this proposal, we have concluded that this new monument must be managed under a sensible, entirely workable regime of true Federal-Tribal Collaborative Management. We know that this has never been done before. But most great breakthroughs in public policy have no direct precedent. We want to work with you on this. We have reflected long and hard to come up with the right words to install Collaborative Management in this particular place and circumstance, and believe in our suggested approach, but we welcome your thoughts on how to improve our formulation. Like you, we want to make the Bears Ears National Monument the shining example of the trust, the government-to-government relationship, and innovative, cutting-edge land management. But whatever the specifi c words might be, for the Bears Ears National Monument to be all it can be, the Tribes must be full partners with the United States in charting the vision for the monument and implementing that vision.


In this proposal, developed by five unified Tribes, we will put forth a comprehensive set of recommendations on the many matters to be considered in the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument. We look forward to our meetings with you as we work together to address the issues raised in the following pages. In addition, we have provided Congressmen Bishop and Chaffetz with copies of this proposal at the same time we have submitted the proposal to you.  We remain committed to exploring with them how this proposal can be accomplished through legislation. We welcome conversations with them on how to reach that result.