Dear Editor,

As Secretary Zinke concludes touring the Bears Ears National Monument, he seems set on committing an adamant political massacre of an ignorance similar to Lieutenant Colonel Custer’s vainglorious massacre at the Little Bighorn – by discounting Native American voices.

Zinke only met with tribal leaders for an hour, repeatedly neglecting requests for more meetings and “equal time.” The majority of Zinke’s occasion was spent with monument opponents who have rooted themselves deep in Utah’s government, including Governor Herbert, Senator Hatch and Congressman Bishop. They convened behind closed doors in government offices, and attended private meetings in helicopters and straddled on horseback. The unscrupulous entourage was demoralizing, consisting of no tribal members and brewed into a suspicious stew of men in favor of federal land transfer, anti-monument ranchers and county commissioners, and policy insiders from conservative think tanks backed by the Koch brothers, with goals to influence the transfer of federal land to states and private entities for development and resource extraction. They did not disguise their disencumbered desire to access uranium, coal, gas and oil.

Zinke smiled as a monument opponent who ranched in the local area gave Zinke a cowboy hat that read “Make San Juan County Great Again.” The county commissioner who provided Zinke’s mount was quoted previously as saying, “Nobody really had settled” in the Bears Ears before his white forebears, ignoring the 100,000 archaeological and cultural sites that date back to the Clovis Period, 13,000 years ago.

At the beginning of the review, Senator Hatch announced that Native Americans were “manipulated” to support the monument and said, “The Indians, they don’t fully understand that a lot of the things that they currently take for granted on those lands, they won’t be able to do if it’s made clearly into a monument or a wilderness.” This condescending, inaccurate and zealous response permeated the atmosphere of the visit.

Firstly, the monument has been designated (the first to be created at the request of Native Americans and 80 years in the making) and it is not wilderness – that would take an act of Congress. The five area tribes petitioned Utah’s congressional delegation for protection of the area, with no progress, so they looked east to President Obama.

Secondly, the monument does not restrict any traditional Native American uses, stating in the proclamation to, “provide access by members of Indian tribes for traditional cultural and customary uses … including collection of medicines, berries, and other vegetation, forest products, and firewood …” Governor Herbert proclaimed the distorted truth that tribal firewood gathering would be eliminated and Hatch could not give any answer for his fallacy, complaining, “That’d take too much time now.” And, “Once you put a monument there, you do restrict a lot of things that could be done, and that includes use of the land.” Concluding, “Just take my word for it.”

A ranking member of the tribal coalition, Willie Grayeyes, reaffirmed, “… we are very pleased with the language used in the proclamation that protects the things we care about and gives us a voice in the future.” Continuing, “It is offensive that some people think Native Americans do not have a will of their own.” Tribal member Woody Lee confirmed, “It’s great as long as Indians don’t say anything.”

Custer refused to follow his Crow scout’s dire warnings of ominous catastrophe, and gripped the bucking horse of self-indulged myopic callowness that led him into the open, unapologetic arms of massacre. “You and I are going home today, and by a trail that is strange to us both,” Half Yellow Face briefed Custer.

Don’t let the gluttony, imperceptive, rotten resource-extractive minds, determined to erase the Native American voice, recommend monument reversal and schlepp Zinke into a political massacre.

John (Fire) Lame Deer declared, “Indians chase the vision, white men chase the dollar.”

He could not have been more correct about this nefarious situation, as Zinke cajoles with profiteers, hanging himself with the fat anvil of resource extraction.