San Juan County is a sparsely populated area in southeastern Utah, made up of large swaths of federal land, pocked with small towns. It is home to a large Indigenous population, primarily Navajo. A portion of the county is referred to as Bears Ears, a name taken from two ear-shaped buttes that loom large in the landscape. Five Indigenous tribes have banded together to push for a National Monument designation in this area, to protect the rich assortment of archaeological and sacred sites located there, and to shield against possible future resource development in the area. Predictably, this proposal has not gone without resistance from both local groups and Utah state government. The ensuing ideological conflict may be seen as a proxy for the current national conversation around land rights, Indigenous rights, and federal abuse.
An example of a fraudulent flyer posted across San Juan County, Utah in 2016. Photo: Utah Diné Bikéyah.
Bears Ears was produced by Sarah Mendelsohn and Fred Schmidt-Arenales. It was released on 12.5.2016.
Thanks to everyone who gave their time to be interviewed for this episode:
Aaron Curtis, Branch Chief, Bureau of Land Management.
Deborah Gangloff, President, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.
Willy Greyeyes, Board Chairman, Utah Diné Bikéyah.
Josh Ewing, Executive Director, Friends of Cedar Mesa.
Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, Co-chair, Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition.
Phil Lyman, San Juan County Commissioner.
Mark Maryboy, former San Juan County Commissioner and Board Member of Utah Diné Bikéyah.
Joe Mozingo, Reporter, Los Angeles Times.
Jenny Rowland, Research and Advocacy Associate, Center for American Progress.
Shelly Silbert, Executive Director, Great Old Broads for Wilderness.
Greg Zimmerman, Deputy Director, Center for Western Priorities.
Bears Ears also features:
Ressentiment by Bergsonist.
Elation by Colin Self.