Ute Indian Tribe criticizes Biden monument on ancestral land

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah-based Native American tribe that has spoken frequently with President Joe Biden has again criticized the White House for failing to adequately consult its leaders prior to the creation of a national monument on ancestral land in Colorado this year. week.

The Ute Indian Tribe is one of three Ute tribes in the western US that share ancestral ties but operate independently. Representatives from the other two in Colorado — the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute — were on board with the plan and attended the ceremony with Biden on Wednesday, but did not speak onstage.

Biden and others spoke at length about the country’s significance to tribes, and to that of the White House official proclamation including a mention of Ute cemeteries in the area.

But the Ute Indian Tribe, which has nearly 3,000 members on land in an area known for its oil and gas operations in eastern Utah, claimed in a press release released late Wednesday night that it was not on board with the plan. .

Shaun Chapoose, chairman of the tribe’s business committee, which serves as its governing body, said on Thursday that his tribe was informed in a phone call with the White House just a week ago that a new monument was under consideration. He said his tribe asked for time to review the idea and provide feedback.

But a week later, the government informed the tribe that the monument would be erected this week at a ceremony in Colorado. Chapoose said he was invited and went to Colorado, but left early after saying he felt like an afterthought, got on the last bus and never told him where to go.

“What frustrated us is that they didn’t want us to comment there, they wanted us there for the photos,” Chapoose said. “I don’t expect them to roll out a red carpet, but I do expect a little courtesy. If I just want to be one of the Indians you want to photograph, I’m the wrong Indian to call.”

The chairs of both Colorado tribes supported the designation in letters to Biden sent on Oct. 7. The letters were sent by Manuel Heart, president of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Melvin J. Baker, president of the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council.

Baker noted that the Camp Hale area was home to Ute people for centuries and remains culturally important to the Utes.

“It has been said that what saves a country is what a country says about itself. By preserving these areas of cultural importance to the Ute people, you reflect the significance of Indigenous and Indigenous peoples to the history and progress of this country,” Baker said.

Biden administration officials met with every Ute tribe in developing the proclamation. A senior government official said the tribes expressed their support – not opposition – to the monument. The official was not authorized to speak publicly in private discussions and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. And representatives from all three tribes were invited to Wednesday’s event.

“We appreciate the strong support of tribal leaders who expressed in our discussions with them prior to designation in preserving Camp Hale’s sacred grounds as a National Monument, and look forward to continuing that partnership with tribal leaders,” said Abdullah Hasan, a White House spokesman. He said the administration is insisting that all management decisions affecting the monument be made in consultation with tribes.

At Wednesday’s event near the Colorado ski town of Vail, Biden spoke primarily about the site’s historical significance as an ancient alpine training site where American soldiers prepared for battles in the Italian Alps during World War II. But he also made time to share that it was once home to tribes.

“I am also honored to be joined here by several tribal leaders because this is your progeny, this beautiful country,” Biden said. “These cherished countries tell the story of America. For thousands of years, tribal peoples have been stewards of this sacred land, hunting game, foraging for medicinal plants, and maintaining a deep, spiritual bond with the land itself.”

The criticism comes as Biden tries to raise issues of concern to Native Americans. He appointed Deb Haaland Secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American to head a US cabinet office. Haaland’s selection was hailed as historic by Democrats and tribal groups who said it meant Indigenous people would see an Indian lead for the first time in the powerful division that makes decisions about relations with 574 federally recognized tribes.

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Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, was not at the ceremony on Wednesday and her agency is not overseeing this new monument. Spanning more than 53,800 acres near the ski town of Vail, the Camp Hale – Continental Divide National Monument will be protected and managed by the US Forest Service under the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Ute Indian Tribe has routinely criticized the Biden administration.

The tribe reprimanded Biden in the early days of his tenure over the moratorium on oil and gas. They accused him of violating a treaty between the tribe and the US government and said that energy-producing tribes depend on development to fund governments and provide services to tribesmen. Biden later clarified that the rule did not apply to tribal lands.

It also alleges that the Biden administration has not consulted the tribe sufficiently on issues such as drought in the Colorado River basin and has not given the tribe more control over land within the reservation’s boundaries.

The Ute Indian Tribe Reservation – established before Utah became a state in 1896 – is the second largest of all Native American tribes in the US at over 18,000 square miles. But the land is a checkerboard of ownership, and the Utes don’t control everything within its borders.

The Ute Indian Tribe is one of the tribes that prompted the government to move from an inter-tribal consultation process, often seen as a check-the-box exercise, to a process where tribes early in the development of federal actions are involved and consent is required from tribes, as set forth in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The concept of free, prior and informed consent has not gained widespread appeal in the US

Chapoose said his tribe had hoped the Biden government would pay more attention to his tribe’s needs, but had grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of consultation for the new monument.

“Maybe nobody else wants to say it, but we’re going to say it: we’re done, we’re tired, we’re not going to let this go on,” he said.


Associated Press writers Colleen Long in Los Angeles, Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff and James Anderson in Denver contributed to this report.


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