“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture
is like a tree without roots.” Marcus Garvey
There have been many fear mongers who have tried to drive a wedge between stake- holders concerning Bears Ears National Monument. I greatly appreciate that local agencies are giving all county residents this opportunity to respond and hope you will both listen and read carefully and respond accordingly.
Over 35 years ago, I helped to prepare several annual reports for Utah Navajo Development Council (UNDC). As I worked with that agency, one philosophy that stood out dramatically, was their mantra: “Those most directly affected by decisions, should have a say in those decisions.” I believe that is a wise and productive philosophy in managing families, businesses, and public lands.
I recognize that public lands should be available to the public, but I do believe that local residents living adjacent to the lands affected, should have a decidedly stronger influence on policies. We live here; we are impacted regularly, (for some daily) by government decisions. Ours is not a seasonal visit, or a well-funded campaign that entices tourists to come. We love and care about San Juan County, every day in multiple ways.
For this reason, policies that affect livelihood and landscape must protect the rights of citizens in those counties and states. State sovereignty must be protected, or we become a colony to an overreaching federal government, which early patriots warned about over 240 years ago. Monuments should never be used as a tool by environmental special interests to prohibit traditional activities such as mining, grazing, farming, off-roading, hunting, water storage, or other forms of economic development within the counties.
One of my concerns is that “sacred lands” must be available to those who hold them sacred. This applies to both Native and Anglo people of San Juan County. As these groups strive to preserve their culture and heritage, they need to have access to those sacred sites. I have helped to collect, write and publish San Juan County history for over 30 years (Blue Mountain Shadows), and I am particularly passionate about passing on the torch of understanding and appreciation of culture and history to the next generation – of both Anglo and Native alike. We must give the current, and future generations “roots” if the valuable lessons of the past are to continue.
One such “sacred site” is San Juan Hill, the last, an almost insurmountable obstacle to the original Hole in the Rock caravan of 1880. In order to perpetuate and preserve the significance of that pioneering expedition, there is no better teacher than experiencing the difficulty and dedication of those long-suffering pioneers. For that reason, youth groups must be afforded those valuable experiences that cannot be replicated through books. They must experience hardships, if they are ever to learn they can do hard things. I urge you to treat all San Juan County cultures with equity and value, and allow them opportunities to learn, understand, and perpetuate their valued history and culture in these national monuments.