Utah Monument Fight & Land Rights for Natives

In 1906 the United States passed the Antiquities Act, which can be used to protect culturally significant areas from destruction by vandals. Since then, many places have been declared national monuments, and those areas become regulated by the National Parks Service. The result is similar to creating a national park, however utilizing the Antiquities Act enables a much faster designation. Down in San Juan County, Utah, grave robbing and random violence is rampant in areas local Natives say is the final resting place for tens of thousands of their ancestors.

In one instance, vandals dismantled a 19th-century Navajo hogan for firewood. Prehistoric petroglyphs have been found pockmarked with bullet holes—the North American equivalent of, say, using the Chartres Cathedral’s rose window for target practice.

This is the topic for discussion on the show this week. Download the show audio directly by clicking here and enjoy listening to the best radio podcast available anywhere produced by natives.

Native Americans are in shock. “In the region here, the looting and vandalism of cultural sites is pretty rampant. It’s a serious offense, but if it gets reported, it doesn’t get dealt with,” Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, a councilmember of the Ute Mountain Ute, told The American Prospect. “This is the final resting place of our ancestors. We feel they deserve the same respect as, say, the battlefield at Gettsyburg. … When places like that get destroyed, it’s like ripping a page out of history.”

There is currently a big push to have this area designated a National Monument, thus halting the destruction. However, there are a lot of folks opposed to that idea as well. The people who are against it have even gone so far as to distribute fake flyers that appear to be from the Interior Department falsely stating that 4 million acres of land would be taken from tribes. One official has even been quotes as saying that Native Americans have no standing on public lands issues because “they lost the war.”

We here at the Puyallup radio Podcast definitely stand on the side of the natives, and wholeheartedly support designating this area as a national monument. As someone strongly in favor of freedom, and less regulation, I am nearly always of the opinion that the government does too much to restrict our freedoms. In cases such as this however, the restrictions imposed are necessary to protect sacred sites from looting and destruction.

In the second segment today, land rights for natives are discussed. In a recent article from The Atlantic, the fact that Tribal members cannot buy or sell land, lease mineral rights to companies, or secure mortgages is discussed in depth. (Banks will not issue mortgage loans on tribal lands, because they cannot foreclose on land they themselves are not permitted to own). Reservation land is held “in trust” for Indians by the federal government. The goal of this policy was originally to keep Indians contained to certain lands. Now, it has shifted to preserving these lands for indigenous peoples. But the effect is the same. Indians can’t own land, so they can’t build equity. This prevents American Indians from reaping numerous benefits.

So, instead of giving tribes free money from the government and submitting to micromanagement from the BIA, the lands currently held in trust should be transferred in whole to the respective tribes which live on them. Expanding a reservation should be as easy as purchasing more land. Native sovereignty should in every way mean more than it now does. We should have the ability to do with our land what we deem best for our populations. The Atlantic has published a fantastic article, and I very much agree with it. Indians have long suffered from what the Nobel Prize–winning economist Hernando de Soto has called “dead capital.” They may possess a certain amount of land on paper, but they can’t put it to use by selling it, buying more to take advantage of economies of scale, or borrowing against it.

Listen to the Puyallup Tribal Podcast, and hear more stimulating Native talk radio. Click here to download and listen right now

Cliff and Brandon are registered members of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and host the Tribal Podcast each and every week with his brother Brandon with all our past episodes available online. They talk about native issues in the news and anything of interest to Native Americans!

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