The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition held a "Stand Up for Bears Ears" rally Wednesday afternoon before handing off documents to Governor Herbert urging him to oppose a proposed amendment that would undermine the preservation of sacred sites. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is a unified group of five nations devoted to preserving Bears Ears including the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe. While the coalition is made up of five nations, 26 tribes have expressed support for making Bears Ears a monument.
Forrest Cuch, the representative for the Ute Tribe and one of the speakers at the rally said, "I'm here not as a tribal leader... I'm just an Indian--a retired Indian. An earth person." Cuch was fired by Governor Herbert from his position of director of the state Division of Indian Affairs in 2011. According to Cuch, he was fired because he was doing his job regarding Utah antiquities and sacred sites, and he's proud of that.
"My message today is coming from the shaman, medicine people that I've worked with recently in ceremony," Cuch said. "And they are saying that all of the messages they're getting is that we have to stop harming the earth--all of it. We have to stop." He said that protecting the earth is no longer a warning but that's it's, "to the point where Mother Nature is getting ready to swat us really hard."
Cuch sited the conflict between preservation and development as one of the issues surrounding Bears Ears and environmental conservation in general. "Our state's policy... under Governor Herbert, appears to be development at all costs," he said. "We need to sit down and figure out another way to live our lives on this beautiful planet without harming it so much. It's not about taking money from the wealthy people and the developers... It's a call to fairness and respect for God's creation the Mother Earth."
Highlighting the hypocrisy of Utah's culture of contempt towards Federal overreach, Cuch said, "Our state is constantly complaining about Federal overreach. Our people have been victims of state overreach. We know how it feels."
The Coalition is using the Antiquities Act of 1906 to propose Bears Ears as a national monument, making this the first time Native Americans have used the Act to create a monument. Cuch finished by discussing the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which says the Federal government has supremacy over state law. "It's to keep the Union together," he said. "We have to operate from one Union... God wants us all to become one tribe. One people. One nation, and get rid of our judgement about each other." Finally, he admonished all in attendance to, "Join the native people in becoming earth people."
Despite wide support from the crowd, not everyone in attendance supported the proposed Bears Ears National Monument. On the highest balcony of the rotunda, a small group of people held posters delineating their opposition to the monument. Tuesday afternoon, Representative Mike Noel was joined by 24 Navajos at the Capitol for a rally opposing the monument and supporting the resolution to be sent to President Obama that decries the proposed monument as Federal overreach.
Max Maryboy, the founder of Utah Dine Bekeyah closed the rally by holding up the documents, resolutions, letters, and postcards from tribal leaders and members to be taken to Governor Herbert and said, "These documents were signed by tribal leaders. You will be my witness... Thank you. I will now be going over to the governor's office." Cheers and applause filled the capitol rotunda as Maryboy exited the rally platform and headed to Herbert's office.