Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous Cabinet secretary, traveled to Utah in April to tour the area before preparing a formal recommendation to President Biden. Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, visited the monuments, becoming the latest federal official to step into what has been a years-long public lands controversy. She said Biden’s action was not just about national monuments. “It’s about this administration centering the voices of Indigenous people and affirming the shared stewardship of this landscape with tribal nations,” she said. “The president’s action today writes a new chapter that embraces Indigenous knowledge, ensures tribal leadership has a seat at the table, and demonstrates that by working together we can build a brighter future for all of us.” Associated Press with contributions by Kolby KickingWoman in Indian Country Today | Read More >>
Last Friday, President Biden restored Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, reversing the likely illegal 2017 Trump downsizing. I urge you to watch the event, and certainly Secretary Haaland’s remarks.
The nearly 10 months since January 20, when Biden ordered a review of the two southern Utah national monuments? It dragged on and on. But now that I’ve read Biden’s two new proclamations, it’s clear that a good deal of effort went into them.
In 2016, the Obama administration prepared a robust Bears Ears proclamation when they used the Antiquities Act to establish the 1.35-million-acre monument. I was impressed by Obama’s emphasis on the landscape scale of the monument. In fact, the word “landscape” appeared 11 times in Obama’s proclamation.
Naturally, one of the first things I did after downloading a copy of the new Biden proclamation was to search for the word “landscape.” It appears 46 times!
The new Bears Ears proclamation not only breaks the monument down into numerous subareas, but also highlights special aspects of each one’s vegetation, geology, animals, fossils, archaeology, or cultural significance—firmly underscoring their importance as holistic components of a larger landscape.
This is important, because the issue of national monument size is a regular point of contention.
The Antiquities Act states that the parcels of land set aside in a monument should “be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The “smallest-size issue” was at the core of Trump’s justification for his 2017 downsizing proclamations.
So, although 10 months did feel like a long time, it appears that the Biden administration made good use of that time to create a proclamation that quite thoroughly justifies the area included within the Bears Ears boundaries.
Notably, it is still some 550,000 acres smaller than what the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition has continually requested.
Sure, the size issue may result in lawsuits, and yes, not all goals have yet been achieved—but Friday was still a day for rejoicing. It was uplifting to see Tribal leaders, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and other advocates for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante gathered together to enact and celebrate this restoration.
Hope you are also feeling hope,
President & CEO, Archaeology Southwest
P.S. At the proclamation ceremony, Biden spoke of a child who asked him to promise to restore Bears Ears. That kiddo is Gavin Noyes’s daughter. Teach your children well!
Banner image: R.E. Burrillo
Along the broken sandstone edge of Cedar Mesa, a pair of ravens watched Friday as supporters of Bears Ears National Monument offered gratitude to the landscape, the nearby piñon and juniper forest, and the San Juan River twisting through its goosenecks thousands of feet below. The gathering was organized by the Indigenous-led nonprofit Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB), which formed over a decade ago to advocate for the protection of cultural sites and Native American communities in San Juan County. Several speakers noted that when the group arrived at Muley Point on Friday morning, the boundary of Bears Ears National Monument lay nearly 20 miles distant. By the time the pickup trucks and cars pulled away from the canyon rim that afternoon, however, the monument’s boundaries once again enveloped the site. Zak Podmore in the Salt Lake Tribune | Read More >>
From the PBS News Hour with Nick Martin, High Country News | Watch Now >>
Commentary on Restorations
I, like many indigenous members of our community, was perhaps skeptically hopeful watching 2021 unfold with a new president and the appointment of the first indigenous cabinet member, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Both leaders promised big things to First Nations when it comes to public lands and ancestral, sacred lands, including restoration of protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, stopping harmful oil and gas extraction that causes damage to sacred sites and poisons Indigenous communities, and the hope of better federal cooperation with sovereign tribal governments. As of today, we got one of three. I am thrilled to celebrate the restoration of protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, signed by President Joe Biden this past Friday. … At home in Nevada, our tribal brothers and sisters have been working for decades to ensure the federal government passes adequate protections for places like Gold Butte National Monument, Swamp Cedars in Northeastern Nevada, and Avi Kwa Ame, or Spirit Mountain, in Southern Nevada. Taylor Patterson (Native Voters Alliance of Nevada) in the Las Vegas Sun | Read More >>
Gina McCarthy, the administration’s national climate advisor, and Brenda Mallory, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, amplified the president’s message: Preservation of these vast reaches of the Colorado Plateau “for all time, for all people” provides crucial wildlife habitat, fosters maximum ecological resilience across undamaged landscapes, and permanently safeguards sacred tribal homelands. … Americans have work to do together—to create visionary 21st-century master plans for both preserves, with full staffs; to empower the new Bears Ears Commission as Native co-managers of Bears Ears National Monument; and to guarantee adequate research funding for the paleontological, ecological and cultural treasures of Grand Staircase. Let us begin. Stephen Trimble in the Los Angeles Times | Read More >>
Earliest Known Use of Tobacco
Scientists have unearthed evidence of a milestone in human culture—the earliest-known use of tobacco—in the remnants of a hearth built by early inhabitants of North America’s interior about 12,300 years ago in Utah’s Great Salt Lake Desert. Researchers discovered four charred seeds of a wild tobacco plant within the hearth contents, along with stone tools and duck bones left over from meals. Until now, the earliest documented use of tobacco came in the form of nicotine residue found inside a smoking pipe from Alabama dating to 3,300 years ago. Will Dunham for Reuters | Read More >>
Video: Ancestral Pueblo Turkey Penning in Perspective
On October 5, 2021, Cyler Conrad (Los Alamos National Laboratory and University of New Mexico) explored how archaeologists have identified and contextualized turkey pens in the Ancestral Pueblo archaeological record, what that means for understanding turkey management, and how conceptualizing turkey penning allows us to better understand the processes of turkey domestication and long-term human-turkey relationships. Archaeology Café (Archaeology Southwest) | Watch Now >>
Blog: Do Stolen Sacred Artifacts Experience Culture Shock?
Early on the gray, dreary, morning of September 23, I landed at the Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., after a 36-hour journey from Kilifi, on Kenya’s coast. As usual, I felt something of a culture shock coming back to the blatantly consumeristic culture of the United States—I felt a little out of place, a little off-kilter, in this world of gluttonous food and endless shopping. Do ancestral spirits, I wondered, feel culture shock too? Stephen E. Nash at SAPIENS | Read More >>
REMINDER: Oct. 14 Webinar: A Conversation with the Chongo Brothers
In recognition of Indigenous People’s Day and International Archaeology Day, join Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Director Dr. Robert Preucel as he welcomes the Chongo Brothers: Diego and Mateo Romero (Cochiti Pueblo). This virtual program will include a screening and lively conversation of the Chongo Brothers production: “The Search for the Anasazi.” This film is a satirical take on archaeologists’ fascination with Pueblo culture and a Native commentary on archaeologist–Native relations. Diego and Mateo Romero are both acclaimed contemporary artists working in pottery and painting, respectively. Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology | More Information and Zoom Registration >>
REMINDER: Oct. 14 Webinar: Plant Species Richness at Archaeological Sites Suggests Ecological Legacy of Indigenous Subsistence on the Colorado Plateau
With Lisbeth Louderback and Bruce Pavlik. Identifying how past human populations altered ecosystems is critical for understanding current ecological diversity and for the management of both natural and cultural resources. This study presents evidence for an enduring ecological legacy of ancient people on the Colorado Plateau, where the complexity of archaeological sites correlates with the richness of culturally important plant species. Crow Canyon Archaeological Center | More Information and Zoom Registration >>
REMINDER: Oct. 16: Need a Break? Two—TWO—Opportunities to Break Some Rock
From 9:00 a.m. to noon, flintknapper Sam Greenleaf teaches an arrowhead-making and flintknapping workshop at Old Pueblo Archaeology Center, 2201 W. 44th Street, Tucson. Participants will learn how to make arrowheads, spear points, and other flaked stone artifacts from obsidian and other stone, like ancient peoples did. The class is designed to foster understanding of how prehistoric peoples made essential tools, not to make artwork for sale. Reservations and $35 payment (includes all materials and equipment) required by 5 p.m. October 14: 520-798-1201 or info at oldpueblo dot org. Old Pueblo Archaeology Center | Learn More >>
Also from 9:00 a.m. to noon, join Allen Denoyer for his Hands-On Archaeology class, “How Did People Make and Use Stone Tools?” In this beginner class, you will use ancient techniques and replica tools to create a stone projectile point. You will also learn more about how people made and used such points, and that points were just one component of a complete hunting technology. 18 years of age and older, and masks will be required. $40 for nonmembers. Archaeology Southwest | Learn More >>
Oct. 18 Webinar: Eastern Pueblo Immigrants on the Middle Gila River
With Chris Loendorf. October 18, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m. MST (Arizona). Recent data recovery investigations undertaken at GR-1425 in the Blackwater area of the Gila River Indian Community found evidence that immigrants from the Eastern Pueblo region of the Southwest temporarily stayed at the site. Extensive evidence for weapon manufacturing also suggests that the temporary relocation occurred during a time of conflict, and the immigrants appear to have moved elsewhere after a relatively short stay along the middle Gila. It appears that the exotic cultural materials were left behind in the late Classic or most likely early Protohistoric period. Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society | More Information and Zoom Registration >>
Oct. 19–24 Virtual and In-Person: Southwest Word Fiesta
The Southwest Word Fiesta, originally known as the Southwest Festival of the Written Word, was created to celebrate authors who live and work in the Southwest. Festivals feature the heritage of writing and writers in the Southwest, showing how that deep history connects to the present. The festival reveals how the diverse literary genres and interests coalesce and relate. Writers who have produced outstanding work that deserves continued appreciation are honored. People of all ages who want to improve their writing or to make a career of putting words together are encouraged. More Information and Zoom Registration >>
Oct.-Nov.-Dec. Webinar Series: Monumental Labor
Monumental Labor is a three-part public event series and podcast that explores the memory of work and working peoples in National Parks and affiliated sites through their representation in monuments and memorials. Why have certain events, labor leaders, or workers received attention, while others remain unrecognized? How are traumatic or violent events marked on the landscape? What form have labor monuments and memorials taken in the past and how might we re-imagine their presentation in the future? National Park Service | More Information and Zoom Registration >>
Nov. 9 Webinar: Indigenous Views on Ancestors, Archaeology, and Interaction with Archaeologists
With Cultural Affairs Specialist Jefford Francisco. Mr. Francisco does archaeological surveys on Tohono O’odham lands and helps educate communities, schools, and monitor groups about respecting Hohokam and Tohono O’odham sacred sites, plants, and animals. Third Thursday Food for Thought (Old Pueblo Archaeology Center) | More Information and Zoom Registration >>
Friends, in celebration of the monument restorations, we’ve made downloads of our Archaeology Southwest Magazine issues on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante free for the next week or so. Please enjoy and share widely! We hope they help provide some additional context on how important the restorations of full protections are. (Because of the way our online bookstore software works, you’ll have to enter some “billing and shipping” information, but we’re not collecting that or signing you up for anything without your permission. Sorry for that hoop or two. But you will get your free download!)
And see you next week! Remember to send us notice of upcoming webinars and Zoom lectures, tours and workshops, and anything else you’d like to share with the friends.