May 8, 2017

Cassandra Begay, , 435-893-1619

Secretary Ryan Zinke responds aggressively to Indigenous woman during Bears Ears visit

Bear Ears, Utah – On Monday US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited Bears Ears Monument in Utah to review the use of the Antiquities Act on Bears Ears. During the site visit Zinke aggressively confronted a supporter of the “Protect Bear Ears” movement after she asked him whether the secretary plans to meet with tribal leaders during his visit to Utah.

Cassandra Begay with the Native American advocacy organization PANDOS, approached Zinke and asked numerous times why he hasn’t met with leaders of the Bear Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition during his visit to Utah. After a few moments the Secretary quickly turned towards Begay, jabbed his finger in her direction and stated, “Be nice, don’t be rude.”

Begay recorded the brief confrontation with her camera. The video can be seen here:

In response Begay states, “I was scared, and my heart was racing. It felt condescending and unnecessarily aggressive. I have no idea why asking a simple question to somebody who is on a listening tour would react so aggressively.”

Secretary Zinke has 45 days to make a recommendation to president Trump on whether the National Monument designation of Bear Ears be rescinded, altered in size or left as is. Tribal supporters and National Monument advocates state that the 45-day review is cursory and a few steps away from rescinding the presidential designation.

“Tribes are trying to have a voice but every week Utah congressional delegates are claiming that there are no tribes in San Juan county and that no locals support the monument, however  there are three tribes in San Juan county and 40-60% of its residents support the monument,” states Begay. “We need Secretary Zinke to meet with tribal leaders, who can identify burial sites, ceremonial sites, historic areas, medicinal herbs, and antiquities throughout the monument.”

James Singer, Navajo and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, currently occupied by Orrin Hatch of Utah gives the following statement, “Bears Ears is much more than the preservation of sacred sites and of the environment. It is also the story of our resilience and survival. It is a site of resistance and of restitution. I urge Secretary Zinke to stand with us to protect the sacred so that our future generations will continue to walk in harmony.”



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