Utah's Native American tribes against mass reduction of two National Monuments

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Navajo Nation, an authority elected by local tribes controlling a Native American territory in the western states of United States, announced Monday to defend the Bear Ears National Monument located in southeastern Utah, which was to be cut by more than 80 percent in size.

The U.S. President Donald Trump signed a proclamation of shrinking of two national monuments in Utah when he visited the state Monday, including the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Bears Ears National Monument, the first truly Native American national monument.

Bears Ears would be reduced from 1.35 million acres (5,463 square kilometers) to 201,397 acres (815 square kilometers), while Grand Staircase-Escalante was to be halved from nearly 1.9 million acres (7,689 square kilometers) to 997,490 acres (4,037 square kilometers).

Trump hailed the "historic decision" would give Utah local residents rights to protect their resources instead of following orders from Washington, however, critics of the decision said that shrinking monuments is bad for both local economies that rely on tourism and environment protection that the land could be used by mine companies to drill.

"Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what, they're wrong," Trump said in his announcement at the Utah State Capitol at noon.

Then Navajo Nation released a statement, saying the decision to reduce the size of the Monument was made with no tribal consultation who engaged to protect its cultural, religious and historical significance, even though it had repeated requests to meet with Trump on this "critical important" issue.

"This is a sad day for indigenous people and for America. However, we are resilient and refuse to allow President Trump's unlawful decision to discourage us. We will continue to fight in honor of our ancestral warriors who fought for our way of life, for our culture and for our land too." the statement said, adding that "The Navajo Nation will defend Bears Ears. The reduction in the size of the Monument leaves us no choice but to litigate this decision."

About 5,000 protesters gathered Saturday afternoon on the front steps of the Utah State Capitol against the federal government's decision to reduce the size of the two National Monument.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski delivered an impassioned speech at the rally, calling on local people to stand united to "never stop fighting for what we believe is right."

[ Editor: meng ]


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