Native American tribes to co-manage national monument for first time

image of Bear's Ears monument not partly controlled by local tribes

The sun sets over Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

The Biden administration has reached a historic agreement to give five Native American tribes more say over the day-to-day management of a national monument in Utah, marking a new chapter in the federal government’s often-fraught relationship with tribes.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service signed the cooperative agreement on Saturday with five tribes that have inhabited the region surrounding Bears Ears National Monument for centuries: the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni.

“Today, instead of being removed from a landscape to make way for a public park, we are being invited back to our ancestral homelands to help repair them and plan for a resilient future,” Carleton Bowekaty, co-chair of the Bears Ears Commission and lieutenant governor of the Pueblo of Zuni, said in a statement.Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a statement that the agreement is “an important step as we move forward together to ensure that tribal expertise and traditional perspectives remain at the forefront of our joint decision-making for the Bears Ears National Monument.”

The move comes as Interior Secretary Deb Haaland — the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary — works to repair the federal government’s relationship with tribes, which has been tarnished by instances of federal officials removing Indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands. 06-20-22

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