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WASHINGTON, D.C | The House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a Legislative Hearing today on H.R. 4532 – the Shash Jáa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act. The bill would codify the recent executive action that reduced the Bears Ears National Monument.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) opposes this legislation and stands with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition in efforts to preserve their historical and cultural objects within the Bears Ears region. The Coalition was founded by leaders from five tribes including the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe to conserve the Bears Ears cultural landscape. Native people practice their freedom of religion in sacred places like the Bears Ears National Monument. NCAI also calls on Congress to uphold the right of Native peoples to freedom of religion.
“For years, NCAI has stood by the five tribes in protecting this sacred area and their cultural and religious practices,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel. “NCAI will continue to support the five tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and their right to protect their sacred sites and freedom of religion, as well as standing by the many tribes impacted by the National Monument review.”
H.R. 4532 seeks to ratify the recent executive action that diminishes the Bears Ears National Monument in size and replace it with two smaller National Monument units: the Shash Jáa unit and the Indian Creek unit. This land designation would remove federal protections preserving thousands of tribal historical artifacts.
Further, the bill does not recognize the inherent sovereignty of individual tribal nations in the establishment of management boards and councils. NCAI calls on Congress to recognize each individual sovereign tribal nation’s authority to have representation on any such National Monument advisory committees.
NCAI encourages the House Natural Resources Committee to schedule a legislative hearing on H.R. 4518 – the Bears Ears National Monument Expansion Act. H.R. 4518 would expand the Bear Ears National Monument to the 1.9 million acres originally proposed by the Bears Ears Coalition.
NCAI’s membership has strongly supported the designation of the full Bears Ears National Monument since adopting a resolution on this matter in 2015. Since then, NCAI has passed two subsequent resolutions supporting Bears Ears and all other National Monuments which were under review. View NCAI resolutions in support of National Monument designations EC-15-002, MOH-17-006, and MKE-17-057, as well as NCAI’s comments submitted to the Department of the Interior here.