By Emily Bleazard

Susie Johnson Philemon, a local San Juan County Navajo, opposes a national monument. Like many other locals, she was born and raised in the area surrounding the Bears Ears Mountains, and her connection to the land stretches back hundreds of years.

Susie’s ancestors found protection and safety in the mountains after being persecuted and driven from their homes. These ancestors are buried on the Bears Ears and she believes the area still contains the spirit of her ancestors. She, like so many others, feels the area is sacred.

One might ask, wouldn’t Susie want this sacred land protected if she feels so strongly? The answer is simple — yes!

The truth is that a national monument designation would not protect the area while still granting access to Native Americans. Susie says, “Our lives are connected to that area, and if it becomes a national monument we’ll be limited.”

Among other things, the local Navajos continue to perform religious ceremonies there. It is our collective hope that the local Navajos will still have access to the area and the ability to practice their beliefs.

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