NCAI Opposition to Senate Amendment 3447 to S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015

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March 14, 2016

The Honorable Mitch McConnell         The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate             Minority Leader, U.S. Senate
U.S. Capitol Building, S-230                U.S. Capitol Building, S-221
Washington, DC 20510                        Washington, DC 20510


Dear Senator McConnell and Senator Reid:

On behalf of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest, largest, and most representative organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, I write to express our strong opposition to Senate Amendment 3447 to S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. Senate Amendment 3447, filed on March 7, 2016, would undermine efforts to designate the Bears Ears area in southeastern Utah as a National Monument.

Aside from the conservation benefits the area would receive as a National Monument, the Bears Ears area contains over 100,000 archaeological sites and holds sacred significance to the region’s tribal identities, history, and traditions. Throughout history many tribes across the country were relocated off their traditional homelands to reservations, and many of these relocations resulted in loss of access to sacred and ceremonial areas. Due to these actions, many tribal sacred places across the country are located in or around other federal lands such as National Forests or parks.

The Bears Ears area holds immense sacred, cultural, and ceremonial significance to tribes in the region including the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni, and Uintah and Ouray Ute tribes who have formed the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition to protect and preserve this location. NCAI’s membership has lent its support to the Coalition and its allies through adoption of Resolution #EC-15-002, “Support the Presidential Proclamation of the Bears Ears National Monument, Including Collaborative Management Between Tribal Nations and the Federal Agencies”.

The Antiquities Act is one of the few legal instruments that can be used to protect areas of historical and cultural significance to tribes, and the Administration has used this law to protect tribal sacred places in the past. An earlier attempt to limit the President’s authority to designate National Monuments failed during prior consideration of S. 2012 in February of this year. We ask you to stand with Indian country and NCAI and oppose Senate Amendment 3447 filed to S. 2012.

Jacqueline Johnson Pata
Executive Director
National Congress of American Indians