Through the leadership of Hopi, Navajo, Ute Indian, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni tribes, Bears Ears National Monument was established by President Obama in December 2016. Its establishment was a step forward in diplomatic relations between tribes and the US federal government. Bears Ears is the only national monument primarily focused on conserving and sharing the heritage of tribes, and Obama's Presidential Proclamation establishing the Monument empowered a tribe-appointed Bears Ears Commission as the Monument's primary advisory body.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke barely spent time with the Bears Ears Commission during his 45-day monument review period, which ended on July 10th. The Department of Interior has already recommended to undermining Bears Ears National Monument in Secretary Zinke’s June 12, 2017 interim report.
On the final day of the review period, five top Christian religious leaders of Episcopal, Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ denominations sent a letter to Secretary Zinke urging him to "reverse course, and listen to the Bears Ears Commission and to the thousands of supporters for the Bears Ears Monument."
The reason Christian leaders are particularly attuned to the fate of the Bears Ears National Monument relates to their commitment to taking an "active role in the work of remembering, repenting, healing from, and never repeating historic racial injustices," as well as resolve to engage in the "uncomfortable work of dismantling racism." The leaders said, "One of the most basic and important things we can do to rectify racial injustice is to respect tribes’ officially elected leaders, and to carefully listen to their wisdom about stewardship of their ancestral land."
Creation Justice Ministries will continue to watch carefully for next steps to stand with the Bears Ears Commission and defend the monument.