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After Sen. Orrin Hatch said Sunday that American Indians "don't fully understand" what they would lose if Bears Ears is "made clearly into a monument," tribal leaders have called his comments offensive, and they demand an apology.

Willie Grayeyes, chairman of the pro-monument Utah Dine Bikeyah board, said in a written statement Monday that it's "offensive" to believe "that Native Americans do not have a will of their own, or if they do take a position that their position is influenced by a non-native person."

American Indians "understand the special and sacred landscapes at Bears Ears National Monument better than anyone," Grayeyes said, and "have stewarded these landscapes for thousands of years." He said American Indians are "very pleased with the language used in the proclamation that protects the things we care about and gives us a voice in our future."

Hatch "does not understand what he is working so hard to take away," Grayeyes said. "If he would just listen to us, he would stop fighting against what we stand for because it is not a threat to him or anyone else," Grayeyes said.

The Utah League of Native American Voters called Hatch's comments "blatantly racist, misinformed and condescending [in] tone."

Hatch also said Sunday that Americans Indians are "manipulated sometimes by people" and that the "far left" has further designs on the 1.35 million acres in southeastern Utah protected by President Barack Obama on Dec. 28.

"The Indians, they don't fully understand that a lot of the things that they currently take for granted on those lands, they won't be able to do if it's made clearly into a monument or a wilderness," Hatch said.

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