March 15, 2018

“We Have Always Been Here”: Angelo Baca Reflects on Bears Ears

Note: The National Trust and Utah Diné Bikéyah are co-plaintiffs in the litigation filed in December challenging President Trump’s revocation of the Bears Ears National Monument. Add your voice and urge Washington to protect this priceless cultural landscape.

In southeast Utah, the Bears Ears Cultural Landscape spans 1.9 million acres and tells the stories of its people over the course of 12,000 years. It includes archeological sites, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and ancient roads that make up a vital part of our nation’s identity.

Although 1.35 million acres of Bears Ears was designated a national monument by President Barack Obama in 2016, President Donald Trump announced his decision to revoke the monument and replace it with two much smaller monuments, just one year later.

Native American groups have been working tirelessly to protect Bears Ears from looting, grave robbing, vandalism, and cultural site destruction for decades, and they continue to persist against President Trump’s threat to remove the invaluable protections these places have only recently received.

Angelo Baca, the Cultural Resources Coordinator for nonprofit organization Utah Dine Bikeyah, directed and produced the award-winning documentary “Shash Jaa: Bears Ears” in 2016. The short film sheds light on the cultural significance of Bears Ears for the people who have used this land for generations, and who continue to do so today.

Baca visited the National Trust in 2018 to provide insight into his film, as well as Utah Dine Bikeyah’s work to protect native cultural resources. During the interview below, he shares his and his community’s understanding of Bears Ears and explains his approach to preserving native lands.

“Shash Jaa’: Bears Ears” will be screened on Saturday, March 17, as part of the DC Environmental Film Festival.

Carson Bear is an Editorial Coordinator at the National Trust. She’s passionate about combining popular culture with historic places, and loves her 200-year-old childhood farmhouse in Pennsylvania.

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