Text of Commissioner Benally’s speech
Rebecca Benally was a featured speaker at the Utah State Capital Building when President Trump signed the executive order. Her speech follows:
When Bears Ears National Monument was designated, it was a disheartening day for my communities and San Juan County citizens. A total of 1.35 million acres – an area larger than Rhode Island and Delaware – was now locked up with limited to no access; an area in our own back yard.
We have used these areas to gather plants for medicine, to cut wood to heat our homes, to hunt for food, and a sacred place to give offerings as Native American people
San Juan County has become a talking point for political pundits from both sides of the aisle. These are people who have never been to San Juan County and likely couldn’t find us on the map, people who don’t understand our culture, tradition and histories, people who don’t care about us.
These are the people who have defined the narrative and passed judgment on us.
San Juan County is our home, it is our heart, it is where we come from, and its where we choose to stay.
Let me tell you the true story.
This was nothing but a land grab. It is about control of the land, people and financial gains for the NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). We have managed to manage this pristine land for generations in San Juan County. As a Native American Dine women, it was insulting that bureaucrats thousands of miles away didn’t believe we were capable of protecting and preserving our homeland. I know the bureaucrats have made promises to Native Americans and these promises were broken again and again.
Thank you, Secretary Zinke, for coming to San Juan, Kane, and Garfield counties and listening to the local grassroots people. Your boots on the ground approach was unexpected, but well received and appreciated. As I’ve stated earlier, he is a great horse rider.
Thank you Senator Hatch. You and your staff have been champions for us. Thank you for never giving up, for believing we could rectify a wrong and for being a fighter for San Juan County and our people. Thank you to Senator Lee, Congressman Bishop, former Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Governor Herbert and the rest of the Utah delegation.
Thank you President Trump. Thank you for not being a typical politician and passing us over. Thank you for caring about San Juan County. We may be only 15,000 strong, but we matter. We appreciate you willing to take the backlash from the special interest groups as you stand for the people and the economy of San Juan County and the State of Utah.
Thank you to the local grassroots people and to all Utah Navajo community chapters for your willingness to share your voice.
We came together in unity despite the fact that divisiveness was intended. Your work is the reason we are here today.
Thank you to the Sutherland Institute for exemplifying and amplifying our voice to the nation.
It is an honor to be here today. As commissioners, we have done all we can to represent and fight for San Juan County and the State of Utah and importantly for the people.
Now it is time to continue in unity and move together.