Monument Valley, UT "It's a great day to celebrate,"
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye told more than 400 grassroots
supporters and esteemed tribal leaders who gathered at the Monument
Valley Welcome Center to commemorate designation of the Bears Ears
prominent buttes called the Bears Ears as viewed from Natural
Bridges National Monument in Lake Powell, Utah (photo by Brewbooks
"This is what we all did," Begaye went on to say,
"This is what working together is all about. We are a powerful voice."
Elected leaders from the five Tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal
Coalition were met by cheers from a diverse audience of Native and
non-Native people of all ages, who traveled through the first snow
of the new year to celebrate the historic designation of Bears Ears
"I am thankful from the bottom of my heart," grinned Navajo
Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred, who represents five Utah
Navajo districts. Delegate Filfred introduced legislation this week
in support of Bears Ears National Monument, which the entire Navajo
Nation Council passed unanimously on Jan. 5, 2017.
Alfred Lomaquahu, vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe, told those
assembled, "Your strength becomes our strength. Your blessings become
our blessings. We're doing this for all the people who realize this
land holds our being. It holds who we are."
"This was a grassroots effort," stated Navajo Nation Vice President
Jonathan Nez to cheers from the audience. "This is your monument.
This is everyone's monument. Congratulations go to each and everyone
of you." he added, "We are the first environmentalists in the history
of this planet, so who better to be at the table?"
"Each one of us has a right to stand proudly and say, my voice
was heard," said former Ute Mountain Ute Councilwoman Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk.
"We've changed history because we've stepped beyond consultation."
She also articulated, "We've got to protect the eloquent words
of this proclamation. And second, we've got to defend the Antiquities
"The fight doesn't have to be a fight," stated Shaun Chapoose,
Chairman of the Ute Tribe of Uinta Ouray Reservation. "We have all
worked together, and we will continue working together."
"Bears Ears is our place of healing," observed Eric Descheenie,
Representative-elect for the Arizona House of Representatives and
former Co-Chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. "The opposition
cannot compromise our ability to heal. It is absolutely critical
that we develop a space for high-level intellectual conversation
where we can talk about who we are and what it means to be human.
Bears Ears Commission has created such a space.
"The narrative has to shift. Please recognize that indigenous
people carry a different body of knowledge. Let's embrace that difference,
support one another, and champion the new narrative."
As the audience smiled over bowls of hominy mutton stew and
frybread, Navajo Nation President Begaye concluded, "Bears Ears
is all about Indian people standing together."
granary overlooking the Cedar Mesa plateau in Utah, part of
the proposed Bears Ears National Monument. (photo by Josh
Ewing - Bears Ears Coalition)