Native Nations Sue to Protect Bears Ears Monument, and More

Bears Ears formation (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

You probably have read by now that President Trump took the unprecedented action to drastically reduce the size of national monuments in Utah, including Bears Ears, sacred lands to Native nations. As the New York Times reported:

President Trump sharply reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah on Monday by some two million acres, the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.

The administration shrank Bears Ears National Monument, a sprawling region of red rock canyons, by 85 percent, and cut another monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size. The move, a reversal of protections put in place by Democratic predecessors, comes as the administration pushes for fewer restrictions and more development on public lands.

Native nations are fighting back, saying the President does not have the constitutional authority shrink national monuments, according to a statement from John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund.

Under the Antiquities Act, the president may create national monuments. That is all. He or she may not modify or revoke existing monuments — only Congress has that ability. Trump’s actions are illegal, unwarranted, and deeply unpopular. And they are a blatant attack on tribal sovereignty and self-determination.

Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument a year ago. Native nations had pressed for that designation to protect their sacred places. As Echohawk explained:

Until the designation of Bears Ears, our sacred lands were under constant threat. Those unfamiliar with our cultures and our traditions contributed to the steady destruction of our sacred sites by looting, grave robbing, and indiscriminately drilling for oil and mining uranium at the expense of our heritage.

See the Native American Rights Fund website for more information.

Canadian Boarding School Abuse of Indigenous Children Revealed

Do not read further if you will be traumatized by graphic details of abuse.

The CBC published a story this month detailing the abuse suffered by Native children at St. Anne’s Indian residential school, which operated in Fort Albany in Ontario. Specifically, nuns punished children by shocking them in an electric chair and forced some children to eat their own vomit.

A student who attended the school between 1957 and 1962 said he was shocked in the electric chair until he was semi conscious. If that isn’t horrendous enough, the story reported that the Canadian government initially fought former students’ claims seeking compensation. (Canada authorized compensation for board school abuse in 2006 under Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.)

However, for those former St. Anne’s students making claims, “federal lawyers argued shocks from the chair did not qualify as physical harm…” the story said. The Canadian government also fought compensating students who were forced to eat their vomit. It maintained those argument from 2007 until late 2015, when Justin Trudeau’s government ordered the argument dropped.

The story cited one lawyer who said even now, some claims are being disputed.

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