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Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition

In July of 2015, leaders from the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe , Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe founded the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. The Coalition represents a historic consortium of sovereign tribal nations united in the effort on multiple fronts to work collaboratively to protect and promote sacred, spiritual, historical, natural, scientific and cultural resources on lands within the Bears Ears landscape. The leaders of the Coalition have shown exceptional moral courage in their advocacy for an internationally significant cultural landscape in the face of extreme opposition, racial slurs, and difficult politics. Putting aside significant differences and past tensions between tribes, these elected representatives created a movement and set an example for indigenous leaders around the United States and the world.

These leaders successfully convinced President Obama to protect 1.35 million acres of their sacred homelands and now they continue to defend their ancestral lands from attacks by the current Administration. Importantly, they’ve done all this with an intentional focus on healing and incorporating Traditional Knowledge into public land management. While many moments would have tempted lesser people to respond with cynicism or despair, these leaders have taken the “high road” and remain committed to planning so that future generations may enjoy an ecologically resilient landscape of great cultural significance.

It’s worth noting that all the leaders of the Coalition manage many responsibilities (both political and cultural) within each of their communities that require huge time commitments beyond their involvement in Bears Ears advocacy. Despite this, these leaders have given nights, weekends, and vacations to be where they had to in order to stand up for sacred lands. Whether it be meeting with the Secretary of the Interior, testifying before Congress, meeting with grassroots organizations, or conducting ceremony with the next generation of Native leaders on the Bears Ears landscape, each one of the Coalition leaders have exhibited uncommon grace and courage in the face of adversity and serve as an example to us all.


“If I could, I’d chain myself to every bulldozer that threatens this landscape.” – Josh Ewing, May 19th, Conservation Lands Foundation office.

Josh holds a huge vision for a vast new, large, culturally rich landscape conservation vision and played a key role in nurturing the vision and broad support to establish Bears Ears National Monument.  And, he has spent the past two years fighting the Administration’s attempts to radically reduce its scope and size.

In the midst of this fight, he had the conviction to create an education center to welcome visitors to a monument that no longer existed in the eyes of the government. He has been 110% committed to a positive vision for this embattled region, teaching respectful visitation of the landscape. In fact, a High Country News article acknowledges his fearless approach: “Bears Ears’ only visitor center isn’t run by the feds.”

In response Josh said, “We hope (this center) is an interim measure and we’ll be happy to put it out of business when the U.S. government and tribal nations partner to build an official center for the original monument.’

Josh consistently finds ways to meet the needs of mounting visitor interest, to engage diverse voices, educate, bring broad awareness, and to challenge authority.  Josh now has his sights set on vastly expanding landscape protection far beyond the original Bears Ears boundaries.

Josh was born and raised in rural western Nebraska, where his family maintains an active cattle ranch. An avid climber, hiker, and photographer, Josh moved to Bluff, Utah in 2012 with his partner Kirsten. Having visited San Juan County for 12 years, every chance they could, the two decided they may as well live where their hearts were.

For his grit, guts, smarts and resilience we awarded Josh with the 2019 Alnoba Moral Courage Award.