Scott G Winterton, KSL File Photo

Group appeals to United Nations on 'human rights' violations at Bears Ears

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Posted - Apr 24th, 2018 @ 11:59pm



SALT LAKE CITY — A Native American advocacy group is appealing to an independent expert with the United Nations Human Rights Council to order the United States to respond to ongoing human right violations it says are happening at Bears Ears National Monument.

Utah Dine Bikeyah leaders say ongoing grave robbing and looting of cultural artifacts merit action and intervention, particularly by the United Nations' Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Leaders traveled to New York to present testimony on the issue of Bears Ears before the United Nations.

That group is the "proper body" to relay to the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management that the federal agencies should halt their monument management planning for the Shash Jaa and Indian Creek units at the Bears Ears National Monument, Utah Dine Bikeyah leaders say.

"We recommend to this body that the expedited management planning process, which is currently moving forward for the smaller area, be halted while the courts decide upon the legality of President (Donald) Trump's proclamation," wrote Honor Keeler, assistant director of Utah Dine Bikeyah.

Keeler submitted an official statement April 19 to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and to Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

"This expedited management planning process cannot adequately address protecting the vast number of cultural, social, sacred and environmental resources in these smaller units, nor across the broader Bears Ears region," her statement continues.

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Utah Dine Bikeyah wants the independent expert to direct the United States to respond to the human rights violations and to formally adopt the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law.

Angelo Baca, Utah Dine Bikeyah's cultural resources coordinator, submitted a statement but was also able to testify verbally about Native American access at Bears Ears.

The advocacy organization is one of many at the center of a fight over changes to monument's boundaries in southeast Utah.

A lawsuit against the Trump administration is challenging the 85 percent reductions in Bears Ears' size in San Juan County, which was designated in 2016 by President Barack Obama.

Utah's congressional delegation, Gov. Gary Herbert, the San Juan County Commission joined by other counties all pushed for a reversal of the monument designation or a reduction in its size.

Trump traveled to Utah last December to announce the boundary changes. Federal land agencies are now crafting new management plans for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which was also reduced in size.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Honor Keeler was identified as a man. She is a woman.

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