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Tribes Speak Out in Opposition to U.S. House Bill Backing Trump's Bears Ears Cuts

Ron Cogswell
Creative Commons

Representatives of five Indian tribes testified Tuesday in opposition to a bill that would codify President Trump’s dramatic downsizing of Bears Ears National Monument in Southeast Utah. The Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni, Hopi, and Ute Indian tribes make up a coalition that supported the President Obama’s creation of the monument in 2016. Last December, Trump slashed the monument’s size by 85 percent, but his authority to do that has been challenged in court. Utah Congressman John Curtis has proposed a bill that would legislatively downsize the monument. On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources held its second hearing on the bill. Representatives of all five Indian nations said their tribes officially oppose the bill. The legislation would create a monument management council that would include Native American representation, but the representatives would be chosen by the president, not the tribes. Tony Small of the Ute Indian Tribe complained that his people would not even have a seat on the council. He also criticized Curtis for using the support of some individual Indians to claim that the tribes are backing the legislation. Small asked, “How would you like it if Russia or France went around the United States government to negotiate with private citizens?” But San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally, a Navajo who supports the legislation, said, “You don’t always have to have a title to represent the grassroots people.”

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.
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