Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 5, 2017

Fort Duchesne Ute Nation's Statement on Trump's Disrespect for Tribes, Bears Ears

Bears Ears
Ute Indian Tribe Statement on Trump's Disrespect for Tribes, Bears Ea


By Fort Duchesne Ute Nation
Censored News
French translation by Christine Prat at:

FORT DUCHESNE, Utah -- (December 4, 2017) The Ute Indian Tribe is deeply offended by President Trump’s announcement today that he plans to significantly shrink the Bears Ears National Monument.  His action will effectively revoke the Monument and threaten the Tribe’s cultural and historical resources that were protected by the designation of the Monument.  Along with the 4 other tribes who came together to advocate for establishment of the Monument, the Ute Indian Tribe will be filing a lawsuit against President Trump, Secretary Zinke, and others in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia to hold them accountable for their actions in this matter that serve as an affront to the sovereignty of the Ute Indian Tribe and all Tribes in the United States.

The President’s actions are even more appalling in that they were taken without even visiting the Monument or consulting with the tribes whose sacred and cultural sites the Monument was created to protect.  Instead the President is relying on Secretary Zinke’s brief review that seeks to diminish the position of Tribe’s in favor of special interest groups.  The proposal to shrink the Monument will leave hundreds of thousands of antiquities, archeological sites and cultural resources unprotected and eviscerate the years of collaborative work that was undertaken by the members of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition to establish a monument that recognizes the unique cultural and spiritual contributions that Native peoples have made to the history of this great Nation.  

The President’s action will upend almost a decade of collaborative work by local tribal members and the five tribes.  “The President promised to drain the swamp,” said Luke Duncan Chairman of the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee, “but with this unilateral action at the request of a few powerful Utah politicians the swamp is only getting deeper.”  Chairman Duncan continued, “We refuse to become the forgotten people of this land and the President should recognize and respect our voice in this matter as the first Utahns.”

The President’s action to appease Utah politicians comes at a crucial time for Congressional approval of the President’s tax cuts and appears to be nothing more than a duplicitous effort to ensure that Senator Orrin Hatch’s objective of eliminating the Monument is fulfilled so that the President can secure support from Senator Hatch for the President’s tax reform initiative.  The success of the President’s tax reform initiative hinges upon Senator Hatch’s support given his position as the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.  Despite promises to work on behalf of Tribal Nations, the President is acting on behalf of wealthy special interest groups to advance their interest regardless of the impact on tribal history and culture.

The President’s action threatens the priceless resources of Bears Ears.  “The Monument isn’t just about a few isolated artifacts.  The Monument is a living part of our culture as well as the history and culture of the United States.  Our cultures are still here and still thriving,” said Shaun Chapoose, member of the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee. “The Bears Ears region is a cultural landscape – a place to nurture our families in our traditions. It’s a sad state of affairs when the President of this great Nation shows manifest disregard for our history and culture as a people, but we are prepared to fight for our rights, and to protect Bears Ears.”

The Ute Indian Tribe maintains that the Antiquities Act does not give a President the authority to revoke or shrink an established National Monument.  It is the position of Ute Indian Tribe that President Trump’s plan to shrink Bears Ears constitutes an unlawful revocation of a National Monument and his actions in this matter should be universally condemned by all indigenous peoples of the world and those that support indigenous peoples rights.  The President’s action in this matter violates the Antiquities Act and is being carried out without legal authority.  The action also runs afoul of the Federal government’s trust responsibility and government-to-government relationship with Indian tribes.  The Ute Indian Tribe will be filing a lawsuit challenging the President’s action with the other Bears Ears tribes as soon as the action is executed.

About the Ute Indian Tribe-The Ute Indian Tribe resides on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah. Three bands of Utes comprise the Ute Indian Tribe: the Whiteriver Band, the Uncompahgre Band and the Uintah Band. The Tribe has a membership of more than three thousand individuals, with over half living on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The Ute Indian Tribe operates its own tribal government and oversees approximately 1.3 million acres of trust land which contains significant oil and gas deposits.  The Tribal Business Committee is the governing council of the Tribe.  

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