November 9, 2023
Dear Secretary Deb Haaland and the U.S. Department of the Interior Staff:
On October 8, 2021, the new Proclamation for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument restored its boundaries to nearly 1.9 million acres. It established that the entire connected landscape deserved to be protected for resources of value and objects connected to culture, science, and history. But this Proclamation only tells part of the Monument’s story.
As you well know, the stories of the Indigenous Peoples of Grand Staircase-Escalante and our country have largely been omitted from our history books and our guidebooks. This includes a history of genocide, forced and brutal removal from the land, slaughter, relocation, and cultural assimilation. Since its founding, Indigenous stories and historic relationships have also been omitted from the management of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Grand Staircase-Escalante was, and still is, an important landscape for many Native American Tribes, including but not limited to, the Paiute, Hopi, Zuni, Diné, Ute, Pueblo Tribal Nations. Each Tribe has enduring relationships to this landscape—to the land, water, rock, sky, stars, animals, and plants that are essential to their cultural identities and practices.
If we want to truly restore the Monument, honor the land, and learn its lessons, we must make Indigenous histories and present-day relationships to this land part of Monument planning and management. This requires listening to Native voices, learning about Indigenous culture from Indigenous people, supporting meaningful consultation with Tribal leadership, and working to understand the historical truths of our country.
Toward these ends, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners has created two films, funded by The Conservation Alliance, to provide information about Tribes connected to this Monument and call for advocacy around co-stewardship. In September, we screened these films at our Escalante Headquarters and discussed the future of the Monument with a panel of tribal representatives and GSEP board members. We invite you to view these films at the links below.
This film highlights the importance of Grand Staircase to countless Native communities and their enduring ties to it, despite removal and sometimes decades of absence. Although they can trace their ancestry through sacred ancestral sites, rock writing, and oral histories, many Native peoples have never visited Grand Staircase. GSEP has been working with our Tribal partners to support re-engagement with Grand Staircase, including sponsoring site visits, supporting the submission of public comments for the new Resource Management Plan, and spearheading co-stewardship efforts. We are also working to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into our conservation, advocacy, and stewardship programs in ways requested by Tribes. This film profiles these efforts and supports a movement for co-stewardship on this Monument and on public lands. Click here to view the film.
This film seeks to tell a more complete story of the ecological and cultural importance of Grand Staircase-Escalante—that the entire landscape is an object worthy of protection, as set aside in the original 1996 Presidential Proclamation and affirmed in the 2021 Proclamation. “A Living Landscape” strives to give voice to the land itself, through the people engaged in working on its behalf: tribal members, scientists, guides, educators, business owners, local citizens, and volunteers, each with a unique perspective that comprises a richness rivaled only by the ecology and cultural significance of the Monument itself. Click here to view the film.
Please help us keep the momentum going. Right now, numerous Tribes are communicating with the BLM through government-to-government meetings and with written comments in response to the Draft Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (RMP/EIS) that is currently under review. This RMP is an important opportunity to include Native voices and commitments to Tribal engagement in the management of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for the first time. We ask that you read these comments and support further meaningful consultation with the Tribes about the RMP and future co-stewardship plans at Grand Staircase.
We also ask that you continue to take steps to support Tribal engagement in public lands. We thank the federal government for issuing Memorandums of Understanding affirming tribal treaty rights and tribal rights to natural and cultural resources, as well as Secretarial Orders that recognize the importance of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) to the scientific, technical, social, and economic advancements of the United States and our collective understanding of the natural world. And we acknowledge the importance of the Department of the Interior’s First Annual Report on Tribal Co-Stewardship.
These milestones are just the beginning. Tribes must be supported with funding and resources to participate in co-stewardship and return to the lands that are essential to their culture, traditions, and ways of life. And we need continued federal support to make sure that this Monument is inclusive of Native voices and that Tribes have the resources they need to come back to this land and have a true voice in its management.
There are many efforts underway to take action to support reconciliation and reparations. But we need more. Together, we can create a Monument that honors a truthful past and builds a dignified future based on respect, equity, and reciprocity.
Sarah Bauman (she/her)
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners Executive Director
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Advisory Committee Member