This week we’re featuring our first guest writer!
This post was written by Sofia Sacerdote, a senior from Hanover High School in New Hampshire. Last year, Sofia spent a semester at the High Mountain Institute where she visited the Bears Ears National Monument – a historical location at risk of being destroyed.
- Bears Ears National Monument is located in Utah. The area is inhabited by 5 indigenous tribes who called on President Obama to preserve the land.
- In 2016, the president established a 1,351,849 acres monument which protected the land.
- In February, 2017, the legislature of Utah requested that President Trump reverse the monument status of the land. This request was signed by Utah’s governor later that month.
- On December 4, 2017, Donald Trump reduced the amount of preserved land by 85%, opening the land up to oil and coal mining.
**Note from the editors: For more background information, we urge you to explore the information that Patagonia has pulled together: http://bearsears.patagonia.com/
Why Bears Ears matters to me:
I spent a total of four weeks this past January and April backpacking in Bears Ears National Monument. The canyons there hold more value than I can adequately express. The magic and the aura cannot be conveyed by a picture or video, but let me tell you about a couple moments from my trips:
- Stumbling upon unmarked/unmapped thousand-year old Pueblo ruins
- Hearing Kokopelli’s flute echo through Road Canyon
- Knowing that an area was so untraveled I felt comfortable showering and sunbathing on a rock right on the trail
- Sleeping outdoors and watching the stars
Why it should be important to all of us:
I, of course, want to preserve the monument so that more people can have the transformative experiences in nature that I had. If that convinces you, great, move on to the actions and join the fight. However, if you are still skeptical: read on.
I spent four weeks in Bears Ears, and though it changed me, I cannot claim to know anything about this place’s true wonder. Far more important than the spiritual awakening of a high-school tourist are the indigenous people who have lived in and around the monument for over 2,500 years.
Bears Ears contains their story and holds significant sentimental and cultural value. While hiking, it is far from unusual to stumble upon unmarked thousand-year-old ruins or petroglyphs. The density of archaeological and indigenous spiritual sites makes this land one of the most culturally significant places in America.
Patagonia has recently launched efforts to protect Bears Ears. A section of this project involves compiling reactions from the indigenous people there. Lyle Balenquah, a member of the Greasewood Clan from the Village of Bacavi on Third Mesa who holds a Masters in Anthropology, explains:
“These places that are considered abandoned are not abandoned from the Hopi perspective. They’re still imbued with the spiritual essence that our ancestors left there. It’s told that within our traditions that as our ancestors moved across the landscape they were to leave evidence behind to show that our ancestors had lived and occupied an area. Up until recently, Hopi did not have a written language. And so our knowledge, our history, is literally written upon the landscape here.”
People should care about Bears Ears because of the precedent destroying it would establish. We cannot allow our government to begin leaving sacred and historically significant land unprotected. It is our duty to advocate for and with the people to whom this land belongs.
If Bears Ears is left unprotected, any number of historical sites could be damaged, serving to further alienate a people who have already suffered enough. These are American citizens in the truest form, and they deserve Life, Liberty, and Happiness. If the administration decides to drill for oil there, the land will be ruined – stained with oil and pollution, not to mention the fact that the whole ordeal will contribute to climate change. As noted in the documents establishing Bears Ears as a monument, “Protection of the Bears Ears area will preserve its cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans.”
Here are some more links to check out:
https://bearsearscoalition.org/ – A group working to protect the monument
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/12/04/presidential-proclamation-modifying-bears-ears-national-monument – President Trump’s proclamation
https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/28/proclamation-establishment-bears-ears-national-monument – Notes from the creation of the monument
https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2017/04/05/429667/american-treasure-risk-bears-ears-national-monument-stacks-u-s-national-parks/ – Center for American Progress article, provides quantitative reasons as to why we must preserve land as well as arguments against the monument.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/uranium-firm-urged-trump-officials-to-shrink-bears-ears-national-monument/2017/12/08/2eea39b6-dc31-11e7-b1a8-62589434a581_story.html?utm_term=.1656e62f4692 – information on reasoning behind the shrink
http://bearsears.patagonia.com/culture/living-museum – quotes from indigenous people in the area
As always, if you agree that monuments like Bears Ears must be protected, please look below for actions you can take.
If you disagree with our stance on this, please leave us a comment. We are here to encourage discussion, and would love to feature alternative views.