The student news site for Moorpark College.

Student Voice

Modification of national monuments jeopardizes sacred land

Bears+Ears+National+Monument+in+Utah+is+one+of+four+national+monuments+at+risk+of+being+downsized+by+President+Trump%27s+executive+order.+Photo+credit%3A+Nicole+Szczepanek
Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is one of four national monuments at risk of being downsized by President Trump's executive order. Photo credit: Nicole Szczepanek

Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is one of four national monuments at risk of being downsized by President Trump's executive order. Photo credit: Nicole Szczepanek

Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is one of four national monuments at risk of being downsized by President Trump's executive order. Photo credit: Nicole Szczepanek

Nicole Szczepanek

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






An executive order issued by President Trump may modify national monuments to create more available land for oil and gas drilling. These actions threaten sacred tribal lands and ancient archeological sites.

Last April, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was ordered to review 27 national monuments larger than 100,000 acres in size. Zinke was set to determine whether or not national monument boundaries should be minimized to accommodate development opportunities for those who build their lives around capitalizing on the region’s natural resources.

In late August, Zinke recommended that Trump should not eliminate any of the national monuments, but instead shrink the boundaries of at least three areas. Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument–a region viewed as sacred land by local Native American tribes one under said consideration.

“The recommendations I sent to the president on national monuments will maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations, and also provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses, and recreation,” said Zinke in a statement.

Scaling down the boundaries of Bears Ears will endanger sacred land dense with spiritual meaning in Ute, Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes.

“I think that if it is reduced or abolished, it certainly risks destruction of a site that is important to indigenous peoples,” said Moorpark College Anthropology Professor Rachel Messinger. “So I think that’s really important to consider.”

Trump’s order also challenges the 1906 Antiquities Act, a bill that gives presidents the power to assign national monuments and protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” It is unclear if Trump has the authority to rescind a national monument, as no president has ever done that before, however he does have the power to downsize them.

“When a monument is designated, whether it is a sacred land area or not, it is afforded its own protections and those protections are stripped away if you attempt to abolish or reduce it,” said Messinger.

Native Americans have pushed for the protection of Bears Ears for years. Looting and vandalism of ancient sites were finally put to an end once it was declared an official national monument under Obama’s administration in 2016.

“For Native people, land is not something separate from spirituality but most non-Native people do see land and religion as separate,” said Moorpark College Native American History professor Susan Kinkella.

If Bears Ears boundaries are minimized, the land will become vulnerable to the destruction associated with oil drilling, mining, and devegetation resulting from extended cattle grazing. More land granted for recreational use would increase the amount of litter and pollution, negatively affecting surrounding plants and animals.

“The long history of injustice that Native American people faced in the Nation’s history is something that needs to be understood when trying to understand not only our Nation’s past, but also to help us understand why current issues such as the ‘proper designation’ of lands such as Bears Ears are so important today,” said Kinkella.

Citizens in favor of preserving Bears Ears as a national monument are encouraged to submit comments and personal stories regarding what landscape means to Americans. Placing calls, sending letters, or sending e-mails to Secretary Zinke will remind him of the extensive we place on protecting the cultural and ecological well-being of our public lands. Action must be taken immediately to make a difference.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




*