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Monument cutbacks an insult to native peoples

In response to your Dec. 9 editorial, “Environmentalists react with hysteria to Donald Trump’s national monument reductions”:

This isn’t about “control.” This is about an unprecedented and ill-executed review on lands that are not only valuable to environmentalists but, just as important, immeasurably treasured by Native communities across the West.

Yet like you, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did not include this detail in his report to President Donald Trump.

Mr. Zinke worries about maintaining the “traditional uses” of the land — for him, that means hunting and fishing access. For the native peoples who have lived in Southern Nevada since time immemorial, the Nuwuvi, this narrow definition of “traditional” ignores the indigenous uses of the land — “indigenous” here meaning uses that predate Western settlers and ranchers.

Places such as Gold Butte, which was originally part of the Moapa Reservation, have been home to Southern Paiutes for millennia. Here we have built our dwellings, planted our crops, raised our children, buried our elders, written our stories and served as stewards of thousands of acres of unique plants and wildlife — and, yes, hunted and fished with our families as well. Since then, our ancient tools, hearths and sacred sites have been vandalized, looted and destroyed, acts that prompted Southern Nevada Paiutes’ decade-plus fight to protect Gold Butte.

Mr. Zinke seems to have forgotten, or willfully ignores, these traditions and histories. That can be the only explanation for his recommendations. And now we see President Trump’s proclamations, gutting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, which encompass ancestral lands profoundly sacred and historic to many Western tribes.

You failed to include these important facts and context in your editorial. We must not ignore the indigenous histories tied to these places or diminish why they deserve national monument designations.

If Nevada’s Gold Butte is next on the chopping block, we will be sure to remind — and hold accountable — state and federal leaders for this grave insult to our native peoples.

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