Navajo Nation shouldn't sue over Bears Ears National Monument

Navajo Nation shouldn't sue over Bears Ears National Monument
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What benefit to the Navajo people would ever come from the Navajo Nation threatening to sue the Federal Government over Bears Ears National Monument being reduced?

Suing the government over the anticipation of reducing Bears Ears National Monument issues pays more lip service on the land issues then it actually does protecting it. Not to mention the resources needed for filing fees and court costs are probably going to come from resources that could be utilized elsewhere. Needed elsewhere. Should be used elsewhere.

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Unemployment hovers around 42 percent on the Navajo Nation (4.4 percent National Average). According to the 2010 Census and 2010 American Community Survey, “more than one-third of the Navajo Nation tribal members are classified as ‘severely poor,’ with poverty ratios that ranges from below 0.5 to .99.” A further 19 percent of the Navajo Nation is right at the poverty line, while 43 percent of Navajos exist below the federal poverty line of $24,250 for a family of four.

 

With numbers like those, who can afford to support a Navajo Nation that pushes for a frivolous lawsuit against the federal government on land that was already federally protected prior to a massive 1.35 million Bears Ears Monument designation?

The monument designation is entirely outside the borders of the Navajo Nation. It would has zero impact on the everyday lives of our Navajo people who struggle to simple put food on the table every day. The only economic impact the monument has is for the very people who initially pushed for its creation in the first place — radical environmentalist organizations with extremely close ties to the tourism industry.

Of course it would benefit them, yet for the Navajo people living on the fringes of the Navajo Nation nearest to the national monument? Hotels, restaurants and outdoor clothing apparel companies that cater to the super rich with Navajo workers seeing no gain to their financial status.

It’s no secret to Navajo workers that tourism jobs do not pay well, resulting in our people to have two, even three jobs at the same time. Plus their seasonal, no one likes being laid off for four to five months out of the year.

More urgent issues on the Navajo Nation far outweigh the need to initiate costly lawsuits. We have reservation roads that need improvements all over, kids missing class because they can’t even make it to bus stops. We have families living in the 21st Century still with no electricity, no running water or housing at all. Around “34,000 new homes are needed on the Navajo Reservation” according to AZCentral. All important and pressing issues each, yet threats of frivolous lawsuits are all we have to look forward to?

What is the reason to threaten a lawsuit of this nature? Reducing Bears Ears National Monument? One thing most don’t know but are beginning to understand is that reducing it is probably the best solution, why? Well for one thing it sits over 11 existing federally protected Wilderness Areas. These aren’t particularly small area either, as they all are approximately 400,000 acres combined. Protecting and preserving the cultural heritage sites and sacred areas.

The highest form of federal protection, Wilderness Areas, already in place should have never required an unfunded national monument designation. Not to mention the fact that these cultural heritage sites and sacred sites are well protected by 11 separate federal laws which include: Consultation & Coordination with Indian Tribal Government, Archeological Resources Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

It’s unfortunate that the Navajo Nation would rather sue the government for the needs of business owners and clothing companies when we need the attention of our Navajo leaders for our everyday struggles here on the Navajo Nation.

Ryan Benally is a tribal member and citizen of the Navajo Nation from Montezuma Creek, Utah with a degree in financial management and a minor in Economics.