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Navajo Nation Not On Board With Trump Highway

Navajo Nation Not On Board With Trump Highway
March 09
04:00 2018

A Utah state representative wants to change the name of an iconic highway to honor President Donald Trump.

But the Navajo Nation doesn’t like that idea.

The Utah National Parks Highway is a series of roads that wind through all five of Utah’s national parks. A bill by state Rep. Mike Noel (R-Kanab) would change the name of the 650-mile, scenic highway to the Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway.

Noel’s legislation – H.B. 491 – would be a way of thanking Trump for his decision to drastically shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Escalante national monuments.

That’s why the Navajo Nation opposes the effort, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said.

“President Trump and Utah lawmakers are trying to reduce the size of Bears Ears, a national monument that protects land that is sacred to the Navajo people,” Begaye said. “To name a highway after Trump is like putting salt into an open wound.”

The House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee passed the bill with a 9-2 vote Monday. It now heads to the full Utah House for consideration.

“Naming a Utah highway after Trump after he has worked against us to protect our lands would be an insult,” Navajo Vice President Jonathan Nez said. “We urge Utah lawmakers to oppose this.”
In his final months in office, former President Barack Obama issued a proclamation establishing Bears Ears as a 1.35-million-acre national monument in San Juan County, Utah. A year later, in December 2017, Trump issued a proclamation slashing 85 percent of the land from Bears Ears and creating two smaller national monuments.

The Navajo Nation, along with four other tribes with ancestral ties to Bears Ears, is suing the federal government, challenging Trump’s authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to reduce or rescind national monuments.

Twice this year Begaye has testified against H.R. 4532, a federal bill introduced by Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, that would codify Trump’s proclamation and reduce the size of Bears Ears to about 200,000 acres.

Oljato Chapter President James Adakai has urged the Curtis to help block efforts to rename the highway after Trump. The Oljato Chapter neighbors both Grand Escalante and Bears Ears.

In a March letter to Curtis, Adakai suggested naming the highway to honor a native hero, such as Navajo Code Talker Ernst Yazhe, who died in 2016 in Salt Lake City at age 92.

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