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Rolly: Bears Ears opponents posting phony fliers, letters to scare Utah Navajos

Published May 24, 2016 4:58 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Somebody is playing dirty tricks in San Juan County in an apparent attempt to turn American Indians against the proposed Bears Ears National Monument.

A phony news release purportedly from the Department of Interior was posted at the post office in Bluff and in several gas stations in the county, saying the Interior Department was poised to take over more than 4 million acres of the Navajo Nation Reservation.

A statement issued by Utah Dine Bikeyah (UDB), a nonprofit American Indian grass-roots organization, said the falsified Interior Department news release was accompanied by a fabricated flier supposedly from UDB that invited the public to celebrate a new Bears Ears National Monument, except Utah Navajos, who were directed to "stay away from our party."



"This is a clear attempt to turn people against a Bears Ears National Monument by spreading lies, inciting racism and impersonating federal officials," said Cynthia Wilson, UDB's community outreach coordinator. "These tactics are despicable and likely criminal."

The flier about the party, posted at locations in Mexican Hat and Bluff, said "Lots of good food will be provided by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Great Old Broads for Wilderness and Friends of Cedar Mesa."

Those are environmental groups that Bears Ears opponents have tried to claim are using American Indians for their own aims to lock up more Utah land.

The flier said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will be in attendance at the party and President Barack Obama will make the Bears Ears announcement that day, July 17.

"No Utah Navajos are invited because we in Window Rock are taking your sacred land and stopping your wood cutting and other activities on this land and you have been complaining about that," it added.

A third fraudulent letter also has been circulating in San Juan County.

It claims the Bears Ears National Monument would ban firewood gathering and American Indian access for sacred activities. In fact, monument designation would protect such activities.

The letter was purportedly signed by Albert Holiday, vice president of Navajo Nation's Oljato Chapter.

"Most members of Dine Bikeyah that are supporting the national monument, like Alfred Lomahquahu (vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe) and Eric Descheenie (executive of the Navajo Tribe) are receiving significant financial remuneration from environmental groups for their support to make the Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa their personal playground for these environmental groups," said the letter.

That is not true, either, and Holiday vehemently denies having anything to do with the letter, which means his name was forged.

"I did not write this letter," Holiday said. "I fully support President Obama designating the Bears Ears National Monument, and so does the Navajo Nation's Oljato Chapter."

The accusations in the phony news release, flier and letter are similar to claims made by some Utah legislators, county commissioners, members of the congressional delegation and others opposed to the Bears Ears National Monument.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, has asked that the Utah attorney general's office investigate relationships between tribal members and "special interest groups" like Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. He also has suggested American Indian groups are being manipulated by special interest groups.

Some in Utah's congressional delegation have hinted that tribal leaders are receiving personal gains by supporting the monument, similar to the allegations made in the phony letter attributed to Holiday.

Gavin Noyes, executive director of UDB, sent an email in March to Casey Snider, legislative director on public lands for Rep. Rob Bishop, after listening to Snider talking about Bears Ears on the radio. Snider claimed Bishop's office received a letter from a UDB Board member who is now opposed to Bears Ears.

"Can you share this letter with me, or tell me who this person purporting to be a UDB board member is?" Noyes wrote. "Nobody has left our board over the past five years, so I presume this person must be a sitting member."

Noyes did not get an answer from Snider.

In 2015, Noyes documented incidents dating back to 2012 for a discrimination report issued by University of Utah professor Dan McCool, which was part of a lawsuit the Navajo Nation filed against San Juan County, alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act.

They included a statement by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, saying the Navajos "lost the war" and have no right to comment on public land management and ranchers in San Juan County telling American Indians to "get back on the reservation."

Andrew Jackson would be proud.

prolly@sltrib.com —

 

 

 

 

 

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