Native voices will not be quelled on monuments



LAS VEGAS SUN- I’m tired.

Watching President Donald Trump announce huge changes to Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments this month, and waiting for what happens next to Nevada’s Gold Butte National Monument, I realize how tired I am.

I’m tired of defending my peoples’ ancestral lands from unbelievable attempts to develop or to sell them. I’m tired of asking certain elected officials, like Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who supported this review and just praised Trump’s proclamations, to hear tribal voices — tribal voters — and help us protect our heritage.

Since the Trump administration announced this unprecedented and likely illegal review of our national monuments, I have been hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

I have sent multiple invitations asking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to visit Nevada and meet with tribal leaders, and received no response. I watched as Zinke announced a trip to Nevada to tour our national monuments, rescheduled it, shortened it and ultimately arrived but skipped a meeting with the Moapa Tribal Council.

During the four months of this review, Zinke has repeatedly said he values indigenous input. If this were true, he would not recommend removing the protections our communities sought for years for our ancestral lands.

I have turned to our federal elected officials to intervene or at least present our case to Zinke. I helped deliver boxes with more than 90,000 comments from supporters in Nevada to every member of Southern Nevada’s Congressional delegation. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., as well as Reps. Dina Titus, Ruben Kihuen and Jacky Rosen, all pledged to help, and contacted Zinke, calling on him to maintain Nevada’s monument designations without modification.

They all highlighted the shameful process the secretary pretended to follow through his review.

Heller, on the other hand, has ignored every plea. I have asked him various times to please reconsider his support for the review; I have offered guided tours, asked for meetings, presented my artwork and visited his staff to describe the merits of our national monuments and the need for their full protection. Tribal leaders across Southern Nevada have done the same. As with Zinke, our calls have gone unheeded. Heller has refused to stand up to the Trump administration; instead he has chosen to celebrate these devastating changes. Heller says Trump is finally following the will of the people, but that’s wrong. The majority of Americans — and Nevadans — in fact want these lands protected.

For myself, as for other native Nevadans, this process has been a heart-wrenching experience. The announcements by Trump and Zinke in Utah tell us that our voices will not be valued or listened to. Even after designations are named and agreements made, our lands are not respected, not by the Trump administration and not by allies in Congress like Heller.

But even though I’m tired, I’m not done.

If it takes more calls into Heller’s office, more media conferences, more meetings, more rallies, more op-eds — I’ll do it. My tribal brothers and sisters will do it. Because while Zinke can threaten our lands and Heller can applaud him, we know that these dangerous decisions will face (in fact are already facing) tremendous public backlash and serious legal repercussions from various groups. Tribal voices will not be ignored forever.

Fawn Douglas is a Paiute artist and Native American activist who lives in Las Vegas.