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Olivia Juarez

Hidden Values: American Indian Epistemologies in Federal Land Management By Olivia Juarez University of Utah

As of December 28, 2016, Bears Ears National Monument provides federal protection to 1.35 million acres of public land in southeastern Utah via the 1906 Antiquities Act. A coalition of five sovereign tribal nations designated as the Bears Ears Commission collaboratively manages the monument’s cultural and environmental resources alongside three U.S. land management agencies. Collaborative Management strategy will jointly preserve traditional American Indian cultural practices, recreational land uses, and existing developmental plans within the monument, making this space unlike any other monument that has existed before. Before Bears Ears National Monument, Antiquities Act rhetoric privileged Euro-Western epistemological values and has historically excluded American Indian epistemologies from having significant influence over federal legal rhetoric. The Bears Ears National Monument Collaborative Management strategy will include American Indian epistemologies within federal land management protocol for the first time. This paper analyzes how the two ways of knowing will intermingle and ultimately produce a synthesis of American Indian and Euro-Western epistemologies in federal land management practices. Keywords: oral histories, epistemologies, federal land management

Introduction Six years of silencing. Six years of marginalization. Six years of exclusion. This is the story of sovereign tribal nations’ encounter against regional U.S. government bodies in the Four Corners area. Since 2010, local tribal governments sought out public lands protection in the Bears Ears region of Southern Utah from state Congress and local San Juan County government to no avail (Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, 2015). From this adversity, five tribal nations—Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni—unified as the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and took their story to the White House where the U.S. nation finally offered listening ears. On December 28, 2016, the federal government heeded the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition’s call for a national monument in Southeastern Utah, and designated Bears Ears National Monument (BENM). The revered Bears Ears buttes and surrounding land are home to more than 100,000 known American Indian cultural properties, innumerable sites considered sacred to many Tribes, and cultural properties remaining from Southern Utah’s first pioneers who settled the local town of Bluff. The area is also a major asset to recreationists throughout the Western U.S. Unmatched opportunities for fishing, camping, and hiking, amid an array of artistic vistas, thrive in Bears Ears. Over a thousand robust and delicate species are at home in the Bears Ears environment and nowhere else. Unique to this national monument is the authoritative role of the Bears Ears Commission. Formed from the five Tribes of the Inter-Tribal Coalition, former President Barack Obama’s Presidential Proclamation—Establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument appoints the Commission “to provide guidance and recommendations on the development and implementation of management plans and on management of the monument” alongside federal public lands


management agencies. For the first time, Tribes have an established seat at the table to manage ancestral protected lands—a major development from historical adversities. Federal violence against tribal nations in the Bears Ears region began as early as the 1850s, when settlers started to homestead the West. This history is specifically invoked in the Inter-Tribal Coalition’s “Proposal to President Barack Obama for the Creation of Bears Ears National Monument” (2015). The Coalition reminds the president that when the federal government forced Navajos to leave their home in the Bears Ears region, the “U.S. cavalry rounded up 8,000 Navajos and forcemarched them on the Long Walk to brutal confinement at Bosque Redondo in New Mexico” (p. 11). The consequent Navajo reservations, created after dismissal of the Navajos from Bosque Redondo, did not include the Bears Ears landscape. Despite generations of separation from the Bears Ears homeland, Tribes returned to access the land and continue traditions such as gathering herbs for medicine and ceremony, fishing, deer and elk hunting, foraging for food, and firewood gathering. These traditional practices are older than any tribal memory, and are integral to many Tribes’ livelihood. Ruple, Keiter, and Ognibene (2016) affirm that before national monument designation, traditional tribal land uses were at risk of prohibition from opposing land management legislation (p. 14). The successful BENM designation protects these traditional land uses and codifies them into land management criterion. In addition to preserving the traditional cultural activities listed above, the BENM designation protects more than 100,000 archaeological sites and protects native wildlife, wilderness spaces, scenic vistas, and historical sites of spiritual significance (pp. 36, 37). As such, the Bears Ears Commission will work alongside federal land management agencies to “inform decisions regarding the management of the

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Hinckley Journal 2017  

The Hinckley Journal of Politics is the only undergraduate-run journal of politics in the nation and strives to publish scholarly papers of...

Hinckley Journal 2017  

The Hinckley Journal of Politics is the only undergraduate-run journal of politics in the nation and strives to publish scholarly papers of...