Monuments

In December, 2017, the Trump administration revealed plans to reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 47% and Bear’s Ears National Monument by 85%. Grand Staircase is considered one of the last places of true wilderness in the United States, with vast areas remaining unmapped. Bear’s Ears was designated in 2016 as a national monument by President Obama following the proposal of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition composed of the Hopi, Utah Diné Bikéyah, Ute Mountain Ute, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian tribes who have deep ancestral ties to the land. The monument holds over 100,000 protected archaeological sites of the Ancestral Pueblo people. With Trump’s move to rescind the majority of the land less than a year after the monument’s designation, signs for Bear’s Ears have not even been installed. I traveled to these national monuments shortly after the Trump proclamation, hoping to grasp the significance of these lands in person before they changed shape. It was both wonderful and terrible to walk through a canyon dotted with ancestral cliff dwellings not knowing if these ancient and sacred places’ fate would be determined by the current administration’s extractive agenda. I watched the coyote dart through juniper and pinyon, saw the full moon rise over a mesa and wash the canyon in light, followed the water lines in the slick sandstone with my fingertips, and laid bare in the warm red dirt, honoring this land through observation and intimacy, a kind of knowing.