By Scaling Down Their Monuments, Trump Attacks Native Americans

 

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The Bears Ears Monuments in Utah is one of the sites affected by President Trump’s actions.

On December 4, President Donald Trump P’00 shrank two national monuments located in Utah. These two monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, were cut 85 percent  and 50 percent, respectively. This is the largest reduction made by any president, the total area of land stripped of protection being larger than the state of Delaware. This land, which is no longer federally protected, has significance  not only in its environmental diversity and archeological sites, but also in its essential importance to numerous Native American tribes. To roll back protections on this land is harmful and, quite frankly, insulting to Native Americans.

For years, Native American tribes have fought, advocated, and petitioned for sacred and significant areas to be protected as national monuments. They argued that having national monument status would prevent potentially dangerous mining and drilling, as well as other harmful human actions, while allowing tribes and tourists alike to continue activities such as fishing and performing ceremonies on the land. In December 2016, then-President Obama agreed. Native Americans rejoiced and have been enjoying the land ever since. That is, of course, until recently.

The basis of Trump’s argument is that, without federal protection, Native Americans and visiting families will gain the right to hunt, hike, and generally enjoy what the national monuments have to offer. Here’s the thing: The Antiquities Act, the act that outlines laws regarding national monuments, already fully allows these activities. So what is his motivation? The answer lies, at least in part, in the mining and drilling industries. It is no coincidence that there are deposits of coal and uranium, as well as oil, beneath the areas Trump rolled back protections on. With no more protections, it is likely that drilling and mining on this sacred land will soon begin.

The President should not sacrifice the significance of these monuments for something that will tear up the land Native American tribes have known for so long. For centuries, this land has been the home of ceremonies, art, and medicine among the rocks and plants. For example, there are ceremonies that can only be performed with certain plants from Bears Ears specifically. If the land is ripped up by machines seeking the natural resources hidden below, Native Americans will be forced to abandon their long-standing traditions and land.

Trump cannot possibly make this strip of protection out to be a “good thing” for Native Americans, especially after how hard they fought to get the national monument status. Suggesting that he and his Administration know what is best for Native Americans and their sacred land is ignorant and unacceptable, especially considering the oppression Native Americans have faced for centuries. This is not “freedom” for the people and their land, as Trump has said; it is a death sentence.

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