President Trump appears to be making a concerted effort to offend Native Americans. Today he made the biggest swipe at them yet. Yesterday Trump used a racial slur at a ceremony meant to honor Native American code talkers, and made that slur while standing by a portrait of Andrew Jackson, who signed the Indian Removal Act and was responsible for the Trail of Tears, during which 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to western lands, according to PBS.
Now today President Trump has announced that he will be removing protection from lands in two national monuments which Native Americans consider sacred. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, President Trump will be traveling to Utah on Monday to declare that he will be shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, cutting the latter monument’s 1.9 million acres by half.
Bears Ears’ designation as a national monument protects Native American artifacts in southern Utah. The monument was designated by former President Obama in his last month in office. Prior to its national monument designation the Bears Ears area was subject to looting. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition advocated for the monument. Artifacts, petroglyphs and archeological sites protected by national monument status at both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante will be subject to possible development and destruction in the areas Trump plans to excise from the monuments.
President Trump is following up on a goal of his – to shrink or eliminate national monuments designated since 1996, when President Clinton gave Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument status. According to the Hill:
Trump earlier this year ordered the Interior Department to consider 27 large national monuments including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante for modification or elimination.
Response has been swift to condemn Trump’s effort to shrink protections of lands that Native Americans consider sacred. One of the greatest fears is that the excised land will now be subject to development, including mining. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities said, “The president is capping his celebration of Native American Heritage Month by opening the door to new drilling and mining on land considered sacred by tribal nations. After his appalling remarks at the White House on Monday, President Trump’s assault on tribal interests continues at a staggering pace.”
Five tribes plan to sue the federal government over this attempt to excise land from the two national monuments, removing their protection. According to the Salt Lake Tribune:
“The tribes view this as an affront to themselves and their own self determination,” said Natalie Landreth, senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund. “All of us, all five tribes will be suing jointly the day he makes an announcement.”… Five tribes — the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and the Ute Indian Tribe — make up the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition that advocated for the monument. Landreth said they have not determined which federal court the group would file the lawsuit in but that it would be about violating the Constitution’s separation of powers.
President Trump will be making his formal announcement in Utah on Monday, but he will not be visiting either national monument on his visit. Clearly he doesn’t understand what he will be missing:
Image from Bears Ears National Monument via Wikimedia Commons.
Image from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument via Wikimedia Commons.
The offensive remarks and ill-considered Andrew Jackson portrait at a ceremony meant to honor the Native American code talkers, heroes World War II, seemed at the time like the product of ignorance on the part of Donald Trump. Add on today that he is excising land from two national monuments that Native American people consider sacred, so that the excised land, as well as the artifacts and archeological sites on that land, will now be subject to destructive development, add that on and it looks like a purposeful effort by the Trump administration to both offend and to marginalize Native American citizens.
Hopefully the lawsuit(s) to be filed by the five tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition will be able to thwart Trump’s efforts.