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False News Releases and Fliers Target Bears Ears Supporters in San Juan County, UT

Supporters of the proposed Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah are denouncing a fake news release, flier, and letter that have popped up in public places in San Juan County.

The phony news release, claiming to be from the Interior Department, says President Obama is planning to reduce the size of the Navajo Nation Reservation by some 4 million acres. Also circulated was a letter supposedly from the vice president of the Navajo Oljato Chapter, Albert Holiday. The letter, dated February 16th, calls on national and state leaders to oppose the monument, claiming it would mean the end of firewood-gathering and sacred ceremonial activities. Holiday, who is also a board member of Diné Bikéyah, a group that supports the monument designation, tells KSJD that he did not write or sign the letter but instead is working to bring about the monument’s designation on behalf of his people. He says a woman spotted the letter at a convenience store in Mexican Hat, Utah, and sent an image to him via text message. The fake flier, which purports to be from the nonprofit Utah Diné Bikéyah, invites locals to a July 17th party to celebrate the new monument – which has not been designated. The flier, which promises good food provided by environmental organizations, said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will be present but that Utah Navajos should stay away. Diné Bikéyah has denounced the phony documents.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
Austin Cope is a former Morning Edition host for KSJD and now produces work on a freelance basis for the station. He grew up in Cortez and hosted a show on KSJD when he was 10 years old. After graduating from Montezuma-Cortez High School in 2010, he lived in Belgium, Ohio, Spain, northern Wyoming, and Himachal Pradesh, India before returning to the Cortez area. He has a degree in Politics from Oberlin College in Ohio.
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