120 faith communities and 189 spiritual leaders in 42 states urge the Trump administration to preserve national monuments
At the conclusion of Native American Heritage Month, 120 faith communities in 37 states and the District of Columbia have pledged to pray for protection of Native American heritage sites and landscapes.
The prayers come at a time when it is reported that the Trump Administration will impose the most significant loss of conservation protections for public lands in U.S. history. On Monday, December 4, President Trump is expected to make an announcement in Utah about the fate of Bears Ears National Monument as well as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Jonah Yellowman, UDB Board Member and Spiritual Advisor said, “Bears Ears National Monument honors Native Americans and provides a path for healing. Bears Ears holds our prayers, medicine, and sacred grounds. President Trump should leave it alone and respect our people.”
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended dramatically downsizing or reducing conservation protections for ten national monuments nationwide.
Along with the prayers, 189 spiritual leaders from 42 states and the District of Columbia signed a letter to President Trump, noting
“during Native American Heritage Month, we call special attention to the fact that every American lives in the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples. The presence of Indigenous peoples is imbued in the lands and waters around us.”
The letter urges President Trump to
“reject any proposals to diminish the size and protections for any national monuments, including Bears Ears, Cascade-Siskiyou, Gold Butte, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Katahdin Woods and Waters, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Pacific Remote Islands, Rio Grande Del Norte, and Rose Atoll National Monuments.”
One of the signers of the letter, The Reverend Dr. Bradley Hauff, Missioner for Indigenous Ministries of The Episcopal Church, explained why he signed: “Indigenous people have a relationship with the land that is sacred and central to our way of life. Our culture, spirituality, identity, survival, and understanding of life is centered in the Earth and the Cosmos. If the land is desecrated, so are we."
Some of the signers of the letter were also part of a Native American Heritage Month spiritual journey to Bears Ears National Monument.
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, Historically Black Churches, Peace Churches, and Orthodox communions. Learn more at www.creationjustice.org
Spiritual Leaders Return from Bears Ears National Monument,
In the middle of Native American Heritage Month, nearly 30 spiritual leaders converged on a threatened Native American heritage landscape: Bears Ears National Monument. When religious community leaders received news that President Trump intends to make an early December trip to San Juan County to announce he will downsize and diminish conservation protection for Bears Ears National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and possibly other public lands, they were compelled to go there to stand with the tribes. Find a list of spiritual journey participants.
Presbyterian Minister and Director of Community Relations for New Mexico Wildlife Federation Rev. Andrew Black planned the trip in collaboration with a national ecumenical Christian organization, Creation Justice Ministries. In organizing the trip, Rev. Black noted, “Bears Ears National Monument is one of the most unique, picturesque and sacred areas in America. Recognizing this, tribal and spiritual leaders from various faith traditions throughout the West came together to lift up Bear Ears National Monument as a place of great healing, wholeness and spiritual value not only to the region, but to the nation as a whole. For the Administration to consider shrinking the monument and fragmenting this pristine landscape is a grave injustice that fails to understand the sacred inter-connectedness between the area’s land, water, wildlife and people who have been on this landscape for thousands of years.” (See Rev. Black’s full statement.)
The Bears Ears National Monument is the first and only national monument with official tribal appointees serving as the primary advisory body for managing their spiritual, cultural, and natural heritage. Yet, the Trump Administration is indicating it does not plan to heed recommendations of the Bears Ears Commission of Tribes, comprised of Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni appointees. The Commission has urged the Trump Administration uphold the monument. to Over 30 tribes from throughout the nation have ancestral, historical and contemporary ties to Bears Ears and have expressed support for the monument. In supporting the recent visit by spiritual leaders Davis Filfred, member of the Navajo Nation, Bears Ears Commissioner and U.S. Marine Veteran, stated, “we encourage all people to come to Bears Ears because there is nothing like it in the world. We want people to come to see the land, how we use the land and how it is sacred to us.”
While visiting Bears Ears, the spiritual leaders met with representatives from the Utah Diné Bikéyah, a local nonprofit actively working to protect Bears Ears and whose mission it is to “preserve and protect the cultural and natural resources of ancestral Native American lands to benefit and bring healing to people and the Earth.”
Calling tribal and religious leaders to come together to protect Bears Ears National Monument as a place of sacredness and healing, Joseph Brophy Toledo, traditional leader from Jemez Pueblo, stated, “if you take care of the Earth, the Earth will take care of you. The healing of one is the healing of all. If we express our concerns as one, we can be heard louder. Sacred sites are like our churches, kivas, white house boundaries, and places of great healing and magnetism. As EarthPeople we ask you help us, help you. Our purpose is to help, not hurt, to build, not break.”
In solidarity with the group making the sacred journey, more than 100 faith communities nationwide are praying during Native American Heritage Month for preserving the Native American Heritage landscapes and sacred sites in Bears Ears and other national monuments which are under threat.
The trip’s spiritual and faith leaders would like to especially thank the Utah DinéBikeyah for their leadership, hospitality and wisdom during the trip.
STATEMENTS AND QUOTES ABOUT THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY TO BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT
“As a veteran of our nation's combat spanning from Vietnam to Iraq, my spirit was calmed at Bears Ears. I departed wanting other veterans and Americans to behold the expansive beauty that will embrace their being.”
Jeff Swanson, pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); retired military chaplain and veteran
“It was very humbling to see all people of faith rally behind the preservation of the Bears Ears National Monument along with holding in awe and reverence the sacred sites. When we fight for creation, creation fights for us.”
Rev. Larry Davis of Trinity Lutheran Church in Farmington, New Mexico journeyed as a representative of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA
“As we pray, speak, and act, we stand in solidarity with our indigenous brothers and sisters. Already we have too much polluted land and water from irresponsible and short-term profit extractive industries like uranium, oil and gas. As we enter more deeply into climate change, we must protect these areas for all including future generations."
Sister Joan Brown, OSF, Franciscan Sister and Executive Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light
“Reducing its size will not only reap tragic consequences for the land and the wildlife, but that effort overflows with racism. I hope to lend my voice to the voices of the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain tribe, Hopi tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and the Ute Indian tribe who are being ignored. Bears Ears National Monument has so much more to offer generations to come. Protecting these sacred lands will allow ones following us to learn from them, to be healed by them, and to reap their abundant blessings.”
Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons, Southwest Conference Minister for the United Church of Christ
Various Religious and Spiritual Leaders Make Pilgrimage to Bears Ears National Monument
Matilyn Mortensen, Utah Public Radio
UCC Clergy and Interfaith Leaders Join Native People to Protect Sacred Site in Utah
Connie Larkham, United Church of Christ News 11.20.17
Synod of the Southwest Blog, Presbyterian Church USA
Tribal, Religious Leaders Join Forces for Bears Ears
The Gallup Independent 11.21.17
Spiritual Leaders Return From Bears Ears National Monument
Sister Maureen Wild,
Sisters of Charity, Halifax
Spiritual Leaders Unite In Support of Bears Ears National Monument
Rick Jones, Presbyterian News Service
Trump's Proclamation Shrinking Bears Ears Will Hurt All of Us
Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev, Rev. Lorrie Gaffney and Chaplain Jeff Swanson, NBC News
Trump Drastically Cuts National Monument Sacred to Native Americans
Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service
Trump Sharply Reduces Size of Bears Ears National Monument Despite Interfaith Opposition
David Paulsen, Episcopal News Service
Sacred Space: Interfaith Efforts to Protect Bears Ears
The Presbyterian Outlook
Attacking One Sacred Place Is an Attack On All Sacred Places
Nahum Ward-Lev and Andrew Black, Santa Fe New Mexican
Prioritize Holy Sites Like Bears Ears
Joan Brown, National Catholic Reporter, Global Sisters Report
New Mexico Wildlife Federation---Founded by conservationist Aldo Leopold over 100 years ago, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation has over 80,000 members consisting of sportsmen and women, outdoor recreationalists. Since 1914 we’ve advocated for sound wildlife management, access to public lands, and protection of land, water, and wildlife while providing opportunities to pursue the outdoor traditions that helped make America what it is today.
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, Historically Black Churches, Peace Churches, and Orthodox communions. Learn more about Creation Justice Ministries' involvement in Bears Ears National Monument at www.creationjustice.org/bears-ears
Why Pray for the Stewardship of Public Lands now?
The Trump Administration is actively considering rolling back protections for Native American heritage and God’s creation. US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has made a proposal for the biggest rollback of public land protections in U.S. history.
Call to Prayer
Suggested Words for Prayers
Calls to Action
During Native American Heritage Month, we pray for divine wisdom for the caretakers of our nation’s public lands. Public lands safeguard the natural, cultural, and spiritual heritage of Indigenous peoples, and these lands are entrusted to our collective stewardship. May our nation's decision-makers honor Indigenous peoples by protecting our public lands.
During November, which is Native American Heritage Month, we pray for our nation’s decision-makers who are responsible for public lands. It is our collective responsibility to safeguard the natural, spiritual and cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples on public lands. We especially lift up prayers for public lands with national monument conservation protections: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon, Gold Butte in Nevada, Organ Mountains Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments in New Mexico, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the coast of New England, the Pacific Remote Islands near Hawaii, and Rose Atoll near American Samoa.
Christian Education & Liturgical Resources
Creation Justice Ministries' 2017 Earth Day Sunday Resource, "Environmental Justice with Indigenous Peoples" includes education and liturgical resources. Find it at www.creationjustice.org/indigenous
All of these National Monuments conserve antiquities important to Indigenous peoples. On August 24, 2017 Secretary Zinke delivered a set of recommendations to President Trump. He has recommended diminishing size or conservation protections for: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon, Gold Butte in Nevada, Organ Mountains Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments in New Mexico, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the coast of New England, the Pacific Remote Islands near Hawaii, and Rose Atoll near American Samoa. Zinke's recommendations have been evaluated by the Congressional Research Service. The New York Times created a useful list that clearly lays out what is at stake in Zinke's recommendations.
One of the monuments of particular concern is the 1.3 million acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Religious communities worked extensively to support tribal efforts to establish the monument. Bears Ears is considered the ancestral land of five tribes, and each of those tribes hold parts of the monument as sacred. On December 28, 2016, because of the advocacy of the Hopi, Ute Indian, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni, and Navajo, President Obama established Bears Ears National Monument as the first National Monument that primarily focuses on the spiritual, cultural, and natural heritage of tribes. In his Presidential Proclamation, President Obama appointed a Bears Ears Commission of Tribes to be the primary advisory body for the management of the Bears Ears National Monument. Secretary Zinke has ignored the Bears Ears Commission of Tribes' calls to uphold all conservation protections for Bears Ears. The elimination of protections for this land is not only disrespectful to the tribes, but also poses a threat to the future of the land. Without protections given to Bears Ears through its national monument status, the land is in danger of damage by extractive industries, grazing, and reckless visitors.
Now is the time to pray that God guides our nation's decision-makers. May they see the importance of the national monument protections for Indigenous heritage.
About this Blog
This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.