June 2, 2017 was a day to remember of round-table meetings with government decision-makers and Indigenous leaders from Christian communities. The aim of the meetings was to bring Indigenous and Christian perspectives in support of Bears Ears National Monument and the Bears Ears Commission, and deliver a letter they all helped circulate, calling on Secretary Zinke to protect Bears Ears National Monument.
The day began with prayers and inspirational talks for guidance and direction, to reflect God’s will and voice. These voices stand firm to the premise that diversity and inclusion are central to environmental integrity, preservation, and justice, with the unique responsibility of humans in caring all God’s creation.
Leaders in attendance were: Rev. Richard Silversmith, a Navajo Pastor of the Indian Christian Center in Denver; Ms. Loni Romo and Jackie Davis-Cawelti, Pyramid Lake Paiute tribal members and active lay leaders at St. Mary of the Lake Episcopal Church, Rev. Judy Wellington an Akilmel O’odham and Dakota Sioux Minister for Native American Ministries in the Presbytery of the Southwest, and Mark Charles, a Navajo activist, speaker, and writer, and Dee Ann Manatowa, daughter of the late chief of the Sac and Fox Nation as well as Environmental Justice Fellow for Creation Justice Ministries.
Loni Romo described her trip with her mother Jackie Davis-Cawelti: "Over the past weekend my mom and I were invited to D.C. to advocate for the Bears Ears Monument. We went as Indigenous Christian peoples. It was a whirlwind trip but was incredible. It was my first trip, I couldn't imagine doing it any other way. We had meetings set up with the acting Director of Bureau of Land Management, Assistant Director for National Conservation Lands and Community Partnerships and a lady from the Secretary's office. We moved on to the Department of Interior Office of External and Intergovernmental Relations. We stopped in at our State of Nevada Senator's offices and met with Cortez-Masto's staff. Any spare time we spent it sight-seeing: museums, monuments and even joined a protest. I am grateful for the opportunity, meeting new people to learn from and especially to have our voices heard."
Rev. Judy Wellington said of the experience, "I am thankful to Creation Justice Ministries who made it possible for a group of us from different native nations to come to DC to advocate for keeping Bears Ears Monument. Together with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition of Utah, we join our voices with sisters and brothers who care about preservation of the land."
Pastor Richard Silversmith said upon his return home, "I am hopeful that meeting with the decision-makers in person had a more immediate impact and leaves a longer-lasting impression than a letter. I think collectively we can help raises a shared witness in the public arena echoing Christ's call for just relationships among all of Creation."
Mark Charles reflected, "It was a great opportunity to challenge the paradigm of our government leaders, representatives and officials by speaking to them, not as oppressed minorities or even as concerned constituents, but rather as the indigenous hosts of this land. I loved it. Creator Ahé'hee."
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