Today, using the authority of the Antiquities Act, President Obama declared a new Bears Ears National Monument. The new monument’s signature landscape feature has long been known as the “Bears Ears” because of two buttes that rise from the ground and look like a set of ears on a bear’s head.
The effort to establish the Bears Ears National Monument has been led by a coalition of five tribes: the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and the Ute Indian Tribe. All five tribes claim the Bears Ears area as their ancestral home. The effort to protect Bears Ears has not only been led by tribes but also has celebrated Native American cultures as a primary focus. Christian leaders have vigorously supported the new monument's establishment through commissioning a poll and issuing various statements.
Salt Lake City resident Rev. Dr. Genny Rowley of the Alliance of Baptists said, “Christians are called to love of neighbor as a core expression of faith. The creation of Bears Ears National Monument supports neighbor love widely, allowing our tribal brothers and sisters sacred space to live their faith, supports the work of justice for Native communities that have been systematically denied this in our society. I celebrate the protection of God's creation and Native culture represented by this monument."
Many sites within the new Bears Ears National Monument are considered sacred by the tribes. The land includes more than 100,000 antiquities such as petroglyphs, ancient cliff dwellings, and grave sites. This monument designation will ensure that traditional tribal uses such as gathering of firewood, pinon, and plants will be protected. Hunting, grazing, and recreational activities will also continue. Protecting these sacred sites, traditional uses, and antiquities is a high priority for the tribal leadership. The area is also home to significant Mormon history, including sections of the famous Hole in the Rock Trail.
The designation of Bears Ears National Monument should lead to greater protection of the area’s antiquities. In 2016 alone, multiple archaeology sites have been irreversibly damaged by looting and vandalism. In July 2016, top U.S. religious leaders joined together in a letter supporting the tribes’ call for a monument, declaring with urgency that “the desecration of sacred places must stop.”
Duane Chili Yazzie, President of the Shiprock Chapter of the Navajo Nation and traditional community leader who attends the Four Corners Community Church said, “We support President Obama’s designation of the Bear's Ears region as a national monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906. As Indigenous Peoples, our intrinsic relationship and valuing of the natural state of the earth remains unbroken. Our people, particularly our traditional elders and families continue to hold great cultural and religious significance with nature and the protection of the Bear's Ears area will preserve the area in its natural state which is our strong preference.”
Creation Justice Ministries Executive Director Shantha Ready Alonso said, “This is a game-changer for the leadership role of tribes in public lands stewardship. We are profoundly grateful to the Obama Administration for making history with this new 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
A DIVERSITY OF FAITH LEADERS PRAISE BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT
“We support President Obama’s designation of the Bear's Ears region as a national monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906. As Indigenous Peoples, our intrinsic relationship and valuing of the natural state of the earth remains unbroken. Our people, particularly our traditional elders and families continue to hold great cultural and religious significance with nature and the protection of the Bear's Ears area will preserve the area in its natural state which is our strong preference.”
Duane Chili Yazzie, President of the Shiprock Chapter of the Navajo Nation and traditional community leader, attends the Four Corners Community Church
Shiprock, New Mexico
“As Christians we believe all people are made in the image of God, with inherent dignity and worth. As Lutherans, by our baptism, it is our commitment to respond to the unending call of peace and justice work. A Bears Ears National Monument is a step towards justice for our communities that have suffered dehumanization for centuries. It is with the gift of tribal leadership that may contribute to ongoing healing and preservation of culture.”
Prairie Rose Seminole, Program Director for American Indian and Alaska Native Ministries in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
"May we give thanks for this monument, and forever respect the beautiful land and people that it protects."
Jared Meek, President, Brigham Young University Earth Stewardship
“We must protect our God-given treasures on earth and recognize the treasures of Native Americans. Both are consistent with a number of resolutions adopted by conventions of the Episcopal Church. Certainly protecting the Bears Ears… is a way to ensure that we do not exploit these precious lands that have been so culturally important to Native Americans for centuries, as well as treasures for us for centuries to come.”
Bishop Scott Hayashi, Episcopal Diocese of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
“Our national parks and monuments are an extraordinarily powerful tool for the people of the United States to tell our collective story. It is critical to ensure that the story includes historic and current contributions and wisdom of Native people. Rooted in, and in continuity with, our Lutheran faith and ministry, it is with great hope and joy that we welcome President Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.
Bishop Jim Gonia, Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
“The new National Monument is a victory for tribal leadership in preserving our heritage. How can you rebuild history, culture and tradition, when it is gone? By not taking care of this site, we lose our way of live and will only see it in pictures. Is that what we want to leave to the next generation, just pictures?”
Ms. Cynthia Ann Kent (Southern Ute), Chair of the Native American International Caucus of the United Methodist Church
“All creation that is created by the Creator is sacred and we celebrate in the fact that this is a historic event, because five tribes came together to protect Bears Ears and it is now being declared a national monument."
Rev. Tweedy Sombrero Navarrete, Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church
“MESA (Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance) offers its deepest gratitude to President Obama for taking the necessary steps to protect this spectacular & culturally-rich area of our state called the ‘Bears Ears.’ It is exactly this kind of land that the historic Antiquities Act is designed to protect with 'National Monument' status. We are also very grateful to the folks at the Dept. of Interior who set an impressive, historic precedent in their amazing efforts to gather feedback from all local groups connected to this land, including the Inter-Tribal Coalition.”
Ty Markham, Chair, Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance
“The spiritual voice of the native land speaks through the natural landscape. Bears Ears National Monument allows for the speaking of that voice through the native tongue of the land. This voice is priceless for it is important to allow those who come after us to know and honor the sacred landscape as the elders and the ancients had before them.”
Dr. Bill Blue Eagle McCutchen, Co-Moderator, Landscape Mending
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
“Our native peoples have such an intimate connection to land and to all that lives upon it. Protecting these sacred sites is just the thing to do. I thank President Obama for this monument, which honors the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition’s collective effort to establish in perpetuity a place to share their culture, heritage, and stewardship wisdom with the United States.”
Rev. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
“This is a game-changer for the leadership role of tribes in public lands stewardship. We are profoundly grateful to the Obama Administration for making history with this new national monument.”
Shantha Ready Alonso, Executive Director, Creation Justice Ministries
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This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.