All posts by Melissa F. Baird

Melissa F. Baird is assistant professor of anthropology at Michigan Technological University.

Why we need to pay attention to Bears Ears National Monument

Industry, Policy, Heritage
With the recent announcement ahead of Trump’s visit to Utah – and the “shrinking” Bears Ears Monument, we can see a bit of working ‘behind the curtain.’  Why would Trump et al. care so much about this monument? A few reasons.  We could get into a discussion of the psychology related to dismantling Obama’s legacy. But that would take us far afield from what this means.  The weakening of protections is about continuations of land dispossession and loss/ settler colonialism.  It is about land alienation and control. And it is about promoting industry values and commitments. The United States, and settler societies more generally, seek to expand their holdings, to gain access to resources and wealth, and in the process to remove power and control.  Bears Ears is sacred lands and territories to many nations. In 2015, five nations founded the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition to represent their concerns and to engage in protecting the region.  Yet, the Trump administration seeks to shrink this monument.  That the administration aims to open these lands to resource extraction activities comes as no surprise. These land grabs have a history and architecture that inform and require our attention.