Utah Republicans Have Shamelessly Invoked Tribes to Criticize Biden’s Plan to Restore Monuments

Last week, President Joe Biden announced that he would restore the boundaries of two national monuments in Utah that are sacred to native tribes. These two monuments were earlier reduced by Donald Trump four years ago. However, Utah Republicans have opposed this step taken by the president. Sen.

Mitt Romney (R-Utah) took to Twitter to express his condemnation of the plans. He said, “Re-expanding the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments “is a devastating blow to our state, local and tribal leaders and our delegation, adding that he (Biden), “squandered the opportunity to build consensus by working with stakeholders to find a permanent, legislative solution.” 

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Why are Utah Republicans Angry Over the Decision

The opinion piece that was published in the Deseret News with an interesting title “A Monumental Insult”, has inputs from several GOP politicians including Romney and Sen. Mike Lee(R- Utah). They argued in it that the restoration decision “fails to include the crucial input and involvement of local tribes in protecting and highlighting their cultural heritage.” 

Utah Republicans Have Shamelessly Invoked
Utah Republicans Have Shamelessly Invoked

This is not the first time that these two monuments have garnered opposition from the Republicans. They were opposed even when they were created in 1996 by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in 2016. That’s why they supported the decision of Trump to roll back their boundaries. It looks like they have no interest in land protections. 

Pat Gonzales-Rogers, who’s executive director for Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, said that the statements from the Republicans show nothing but “ignorance of Indian law and policy.” A coalition is a group of tribes that petitioned Obama to make this site into a monument. He also added that Sen. Romney doesn’t represent nor speak for the tribes. 

Utah Republicans or Lee or Romney haven’t clarified how these restorations are exactly harming tribes or their faiths. The monument of Bears Ears is home to more than 100,000 archaeological sites. It is the only national monument that was created at the direct request of tribes. The tribes that consider it sacred include – Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe.

The other monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, is also the ancestral homeland to Southern Paiute people and other tribes have a connection to it. It provides great archaeological and paleontological resources. 

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Ryan Zinke, Trump’s Interior Secretary had recommended shrinking the Bears Ears to Trump in 2017, which received condemnation from the tribes. “A slap in the face to the members of our Tribes and an affront to Indian people all across the country,” said a spokesman of the coalition. Trump went as far as to reduce the monument by 85%, and the coalition sued the government. When the decision of restoration came out, the decision was celebrated by the tribes. It will be back to its original size. 

Deb Haaland, after becoming interior secretary, traveled to these two monuments and met with stakeholders and tribal leaders who thought they were betrayed by the Trump administration. After discussing with 11 federally recognized tribes, Haaland submitted a 16-page document to the White House in June and advised the government to bring back the monument to its original size. 

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The report says, “During Tribal consultation, all Tribal leaders and representatives who provided input expressed support for the restoration of the pre-modified boundaries and conditions of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.”

When the decision was signed by Biden on Friday, various tribal leaders like Jonathan Nez of Navajo Nation, Manuel Heart of Ute Mountain Ute, and Hopi Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma were present to show their support. 

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