One of the controversies du jour is whether the Bears Ears should be designated a national monument. I cannot speak for Native Americans who have an interest in the territory, and there are mixed reports as to the Native American position, though it seems the majority are in favor of monument designation. San Juan County, local landowners, ORV users, et al., predictably oppose any designation. The common refrain is that Obama is coming to take “our land.”
What a joke.
Before Columbus “discovered” America, there were millions of people living in the Americas. They had built cities that rivaled or exceeded those of Europe. They populated just about every nook and cranny, including southeastern Utah. (Do you understand that the population of what is now San Juan County during the Anasazi period exceeded what it is today?)
Our white Eurocentric culture has a huge debt to pay. All of the heavily populated areas of the United States, and all of our great cities are built on stolen land. Our Anglo ancestors committed genocide on the Native Americans – there is no other word for it. Those we didn’t kill were forced onto barren, forsaken lands that no one wanted, unless and until something valuable was found on those lands that our government had promised to the displaced Natives. When that happened, we just killed some more Natives, stole the land again, and moved them to someplace even worse.
It’s time to start trying to repay that unpayable debt. Not only should the Bears Ears be designated a national monument, we should just give it (back) to the Native Americans. It is mostly public land after all – it belongs to all of us, not just radicals like Mike Noel, the bumbling Bundy gang and their ATV ridin’, gun totin’, artifact stealin’, welfare ranchin’ ilk. Given our sorry history with Native Americans, giving them back this small chunk of land is the very least we can do. It would be interesting to see how much of their old culture the Native Americans have managed to retain, and whether their “management” of the land might offer us civilized folk any lessons on conservation, respect and humility.