President Trump has delivered another slap in the face to Native Americans, announcing plans on Monday to eliminate federal protections for the Bears Ears region in Utah.
The Bears Ears National Monument — currently 1.3 million acres — will be reduced to 85 percent of its current size, according to the New York Times.
“This is a sad day for indigenous people and for America,” said Jonathan Nez, Navajo Nation Vice President. “However, we are resilient and refuse to allow President Trump’s unlawful decision to discourage us. We will continue to fight in honor of our ancestral warriors who fought for our way of life, for our culture and for our land.”
The territory was granted federal protection in December 2016 after five Indian nations — including the Navajo, the Zuni, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Hopi — lobbied the Obama administration.
The Navajo Nation Council released a statement condemning Trump’s decision:
Bears Ears has protected Navajo people in the past, and now we must protect it. Navajo Nation Bears Ears has protected Navajo people in the past, and now we must protect it. Navajo Nation will continue to work with the Hopi, Zuni, Ute Indian, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes to fight for our ancestral lands and permanently protect this landscape. This decision disrespects Native Americans across the country by acting against the Antiquities Act, which has been used countless times since 1906 to protect Native American heritage. Navajo Nation will be filing a legal challenge to President Trump’s decision and we will not back down.
The elimination of federal protections to the area, which could soon be subjected to fossil fuel extraction, comes days after the Senate passed a tax bill that included a provision permitting oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.