March 15, 2018

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

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.

Additional clips from our interview with Angelo Baca about working with Native communities to preserve public lands is available on Preservation Leadership Forum.

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Carson Bear was 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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