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.