By Woody Lee, Executive Director (Feature photo by Cynthia Wilson, Traditional Foods Program Director)
In an interview with the Utah Diné Bikéyah Communications Desk, Woody Lee virtually sat down with Alastair Lee Bitsóí, UDB’s Communications Director, and Willson Atene, UDB’s Office Assistant. The trio talked about what Voting Vigilance means under Mr. Lee’s leadership as the new executive director for Utah Diné Bikéyah. Here is what Mr. Lee has to say.
Voting Vigilance = 1.9 Million Acre Bears Ears
As the new executive director for Utah Diné Bikéyah, Voting Vigilance has many connotations, including the obvious action of casting your ballots for Election 2020. More than ever, we need our Native brothers and sisters to vote during these unprecedented times. Even as a registered Republican, I am more eager to vote this election than in years past. Mostly since the current administration has unfairly created barriers for Black, Indigenous and People of Color from exercising the right to vote and even officially taking part in the centennial 2020 Census count.
By Voting Vigilance, you are also exercising your right to protect cultural landscapes like Bears Ears National Monument. Protecting cultural landscapes like Bears Ears is critical to our vision of healing the people and the earth with Indigenous-led land conservation efforts. When taking care of your family, it requires taking care of the land first, and this includes Bears Ears. It is why our board is now advocating for the restoration of Bears Ears National Monument at 1.9 million acres. The 1.9-million-acre proposal has been our vision since the beginning of our efforts in 2010, but had been reduced under the Obama Proclamation to 1.35 million acres in 2016. Fast forward to now, we are in litigation against the Trump Administration for illegally reducing Bears Ears by 85% in 2017. Beyond the outcome of November 3, we will continue to ask for the restorative justice Bears Ears deserves.
As we enter the 9-month of the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to also remind you that Voting Vigilance happens almost daily with the public health mandates. The public health orders at the local, tribal, state, and federal government levels require masks, social distancing and hand washing, and we need to remain vigilant in doing so. When you’re at the polls this Election Day, remember to wear your masks and social distance. You’re not only protecting yourself, but also protecting others from exposure to the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Every day, we are exercising what Voting Vigilance is with our decision-making.
When it comes to my leadership, I lead from the guidance of our board and the mission and values of Utah Diné Bikéyah. Centered on the idea of healing – emotionally, spiritually, and physically – we must vote for a candidate that exhibits these values. I challenge you all to vote this Election Day, as it is our past ancestors who fought for us to vote in these modern times. Let’s not forget our ancestors, who persevered for us to protect and defend cultural landscapes like Bears Ears! #NativeVote2020 #SkoVoteDen #BearsEarsStrong