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Scaling Back the Sacred: A Word from the Executive Director

Written by Dr. Larry Greenfield
December 4, 2017

The news of the day, according to President Trump, is that the United States is doing it again.
Yes, once again the U.S. is scaling back the sacred – stealing away large swathes of land that from areas that are designated as National Monuments and legally protected by the Antiquities Act. Specifically, the President has promised to drastically reduce the area of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante, effectively opening the looted lands to drilling, mining, and development. These sites are held sacred to five tribes: The Hopi, the Ute Mountain Ute, The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, the Navajo, and the Zuni. As if plundering the sacred sites of one tribe wasn’t enough.
This is not a new atrocity, but a pattern that the President has gleefully reinvigorated; the practice of prioritizing profit over protection, of valuing wealth over the sacred. The voices of the minority have once again been hushed, and the cries of the earth similarly stifled. Wide spaces that play host to animals and plants, the open sky and deep waters, heights, depths, and humans who have lived there in quiet symbiosis since time immemorial, will now be frozen in concrete and stained with oil.
The tribes in question are right to see these minimizations as a quick and brutal betrayal, coming less than a year after the original establishment of Bears Ears as protected land. We should see it as a betrayal, too. The leadership of our country has reneged on a contract before the ink has even dried. We have been made liars against our will.
There are days ahead to redeem this sacred land: the courts can determine whether or not this President – or any future president – has the authority to take this kind of action. And there is a growing community of scholars who hold that only congress can, by law, reduce the size of a monument. Let us protest and fight this broken promise. Let us be people of our word.
I live in hope that the our decision will have the consequence of honoring both the people and their majestic land.