In the final month of his administration, Barack Obama designated 1.35 million acres in Utah as the Bears Ears National Monument. A year later, Donald Trump slashed the expanse by 85 percent, leaving about 200,000 acres under federal protection.
Trump said he reduced the size of Bears Ears to combat government overreach, but critics claim the move opened the area to mining and drilling. The Washington Post discovered that a uranium company had conducted an intensive lobbying campaign to cut down the amount of protected land.
Native tribes, environmentalists and concerned businesses such as Patagonia have filed a lawsuit that claims the executive branch lacks authority to alter the size of national monuments. If the suit fails, no designated national monument is safe, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears,” edited by Jacqueline Keeler and featuring essays, interviews and poetry by Native American writers, addresses the issue at the heart of all the political and legal wrangling: For Native Americans, the Bears Ears land is an endangered, irreplaceable spiritual and cultural center. The book describes the unprecedented collaborative process that preceded the national monument designation. Even more importantly, it articulates the nature and depth of Native American ties to the land. We learn about the Bears Ears in particular, but the greater lesson deals with culture, identity and, as one writer says, “what it means to be human.”
Click here to read long excerpts from “Edge of Morning” at Google Books.
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