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Navajo Nation praises Biden for protecting 'sacred' land

Leaders of the Navajo Nation, which encompasses much of northern Arizona, are celebrating the recent restoration of a national monument that had been downsized.
Credit: AP
FILE - This May 8, 2017 aerial file photo shows Arch Canyon within Bears Ears National Monument on May 8, 2017, in Utah. President Joe Biden will expand two sprawling national monuments in Utah that have been at the center of a public lands tug-of-war that has played out over three presidential administrations, the state's governor said Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

NAVAJO COUNTY, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation is commending President Joe Biden for restoring Bears Ears National Monument back to its original size. 

On Friday, Biden signed a proclamation that reversed his predecessor's decision to reduce the size of Bears Ears by nearly 1 million acres. 

In 2017, former President Donald Trump cut the monument's acreage by 85%, which stripped the land of federal protections and opened it up to be excavated for natural resources. 

Leaders of the Navajo Nation, which encompasses the land surrounding Bears Ears in southern Utah, have been pushing to restore the monument back to its original size. 

The tribe's council said Biden's restoration of Bear Ears will help preserve a site that's long been sacred to Navajos.   

“Bears Ears National Monument is our home and a sacred place close to the heart of the Navajo people,” said Navajo Council Delegate Herman Daniels, Jr. "We have lived, farmed, hunted, gathered herbs, and conducted ceremonies on this sacred land for hundreds of years."

More than 100,000 archeological and cultural sites are reportedly located in Bear Ears with artifacts that date back hundreds of years. 

The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition has been advocating for the protection of these sites in order to ward off vandals and trespassers. 

"Ongoing looting, grave robbing, vandalism, and destruction of cultural sites are acts that literally rob Native American people of spiritual connections, as well as a sense of place and history," the coalition stated.

According to the Interior Department, the president's recent proclamation also restores the membership and conditions of the Bears Ears Commission with tribal representatives to provide guidance on the future management of the monument.

Council Speaker Seth Damon said Biden's proclamation benefits the many other tribal nations who have a connection to the Bears Ears land. 

“The Navajo Nation Council commends (Interior) Secretary Debra Haaland for her leadership as we continue to work with President Biden to protect our land, water, and sacred sites,” Damon said.

The White House said this week it will ensure the Bureau of Land Management provides adequate staffing and resources to protect the Bears Ears monument.

RELATED: Biden to restore Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments cut by Trump

RELATED: Biden nominates Navajo woman from Arizona as first Native American to lead National Endowment for the Humanities

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