Indigenous leaders react to restoration of Bears Ears’ boundaries

Oct 8, 2021, 8:05 PM | Updated: 9:42 pm

bears ears boundaries restored...

(The view from the cliffs near Moki Dugway, where tribal leaders held a celebration for the Bears Ears restoration. Photo: Paul Nelson)

(The view from the cliffs near Moki Dugway, where tribal leaders held a celebration for the Bears Ears restoration. Photo: Paul Nelson)

SAN JUAN COUNTY, Utah — Tears of joy, prayers and sacred songs… all part of how tribal leaders in southern Utah reacted at President Joe Biden’s restoration of the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.

When President Biden made his declaration official, the leadership of Utah Diné Bikéyah huddled around one man who played the president’s live speech over speakerphone.  They cheered after hearing the restoration of three national monuments. They then embraced each other in celebration.  Board Founder Kenneth Maryboy says tears came to his eyes.

(People embracing after President Biden’s announcement. Photo: Paul Nelson)

“I prayed for the longest time, thanking the holy people that we’re going to preserve the beautiful land of Bears Ears.”

Bears Ears restoration: Sacred land

Maryboy says every part of the land is sacred to them.  The carvings tell their history while they frequently use the herbs for medicinal purposes.

President Biden stated that Bears Ears was the first national monument to be made at the request of Native American tribes.  Diné Bikéyah board member Mary Benally says they were thrilled in 2016 when President Obama put it under BLM protection.

She said, “Everything in that proclamation is exactly what we asked for, and we want to keep it as such.”

Honored and protected

Benally says every tribe of the Colorado Basin area has traveled through the land, and their requests on how it should be protected should be honored.  She says they want to avoid the kind of pollution that has happened in other developed areas.

 “It’s a small piece of land and we don’t want any development, we don’t want any mining and we don’t want any kind of construction,” said Benally.

Sacred songs and a blessing

(Tribal officials leading others in song before they blessed the area. Photo: Paul Nelson)

After the announcement, tribal leaders sang sacred songs. They also placed a blessing on an area near Moki Dugway, which is near Bears Ears.  Celebrating with them was Bruce Babbitt, the man who served as Secretary of the Interior when President Clinton established the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  He’s extremely happy to see both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante restored to their original boundaries.

Babbitt said, “The people who have been here for centuries are back on the land.”

He also says he never believed President Trump’s reduction of the monuments would last long after his presidency.

Read more:

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Politics + Government

Former Arkansas governor and U.S. Sen. David Pryor, a Democrat who was one of the state's most belo...

ANDREW DeMILLO Associated Press

David Pryor, former governor and senator of Arkansas, dies at age 89

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Former Arkansas governor and U.S. Sen. David Pryor, a Democrat who was one of the state’s most beloved political figures and remained active in public service in the state long after he left office, has died. He was 89. Pryor, who went undercover to investigate nursing homes while a congressman, […]

18 hours ago

Pro-Palestinian activists demonstrate outside the Capitol in Washington....

Stephen Groves and Lisa Mascaro

The House passes billions in aid for Ukraine and Israel after months of struggle

A $26 billion package aiding Israel and providing humanitarian relief to citizens of Gaza passed through the House today.

23 hours ago

A man carries a Free TikTok sign in front of the courthouse where the hush-money trial of Donald Tr...

Mary Clare Jalonick and Haleluya Hadero

The House votes for possible TikTok ban in the US, but don’t expect the app to go away anytime soon

The House has passed legislation that would ban TikTok in the United States, but that doesn't mean the app is going anywhere anytime soon.

1 day ago

The word "privacy" is nowhere in the U.S. Constitution. But with technology changing things by the ...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: Should we have a consumer right to privacy?

A bipartisan proposal would define privacy as a consumer right and create new rules for data collection companies to follow.

1 day ago

two people shown with wraps over themselves as they use the cbp one app...

Peter Johnston

Utah lawmakers push bill to stop undocumented immigrants from boarding planes

The CBP One app allows people immigrating to the U.S. to set up an appointment with customs before they land at a port of entry.

2 days ago

sign says "trans lives matter," the sign was for a protest about how slc school district was implem...

Heather Peterson

Implementation of new Utah bathroom law causes confusion in SLC School District

A new Utah bathroom law that takes effect on May 1 is at the center of some confusion about what schools do and don't need to do.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Indigenous leaders react to restoration of Bears Ears’ boundaries