Tribes give Cox high marks for COVID but say decision to fight Bears Ears is disappointing


When it comes to Indigenous issues across Utah, Governor Spencer Cox is listening to and helping the approximately 41,644 Native Americans living in the state with COVID-19 and developing infrastructure for rural communities , according to tribal leaders.

Leaders from most of Utah’s sovereign tribal states gave Cox a B and said they were mostly satisfied with the governor’s job during his first year in office.

They say withholding the governor’s review is Cox’s support of a lawsuit that is likely to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument, which was restored by President Joe Biden after being demoted by President Donald Trump. determined. In addition to the Bears Ears, the ongoing redistricting issues in San Juan County were another topic of concern for the tribes, particularly the Navajo Nation, which wanted the state to consider county issues such as polling stations.

Part of the process

Dustin Jansen, a Navajo (Diné) and a political appointee under Cox, said: “Government agencies are trying to work with tribal governments and trying to ensure a Healthy Utah. Utah Chamber of Indian Affairs.

“He was very understanding of the idea that we cannot go beyond our limits as a state government, especially when tribal governments are at the forefront of doing their own thing,” said Jansen. added.

Cox has relied on the role of the Alaska Native/Alaska Indian Health Liaison in the Utah Department of Health to help the state coordinate with tribal governments on their COVID-19 needs for better health security. , Jansen said.

The Goshute Reserve’s Federal Tribal Business Council (CTGR) also consulted on merging the department with the Department of Human Services into the Department of Health and Human Services. President Rupert Steele said the tribe has been working in these conversations to make inter-tribal consultations between nations more effective.

Steele, who represents approximately 600 registered CTGR tribe members living in both Utah and Nevada, said: “In this merger, Utah leadership consulted with the Indian Country to develop a plan for incorporation. Office of Native American and Alaskan Affairs.

Wyoming Senator Jani Iwamoto is a sponsor of the Senate Bill 28 that will be considered in this upcoming legislative session.

Trials, vaccines and ancestral land rights

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit tribal communities hard, with some communities having a higher number of cases per capita in the early part of the pandemic than the rest of the state.

“When we talked about health and health security, he was very quick to make sure our tribe was vaccinated very quickly,” said Brad Parry, vice president of the Northwestern Shoshone Band. . “He was always up to date on how we were vaccinated.”

The Shoshone Northwestern Band is a federally recognized, landless tribe and has worked with Cox to ensure that the tribe has a say in its treaty hunting and fishing rights to the land their ancestors in Utah. Cox agreed to respect tribal treaty rights, which required working with the state to align with federal regulations, Parry said.

“He suggested calling the governor of Idaho because the State of Idaho did not want to respect our treaty rights to hunt or fish,” Parry said. “And our governor is willing to call them and say, ‘Hey, hold on, this is what’s happening. This is how I think, “and having a governor do it for you is huge.”

Parry added that his band and Cox are also in preliminary talks over land for his people. Parry says its Aboriginal land includes parts of Salt Lake, Cache Valley, and parts of Idaho and Wyoming.

Receive promised electricity and water for a long time

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says his relationship with the governor goes back to when Cox was a lieutenant colonel governor and that the two worked alongside tribal public health officials to ensure the system Utah Navajo Health serves the people of Diné in San Juan County during the pandemic.

Another project that Nez appreciates Cox’s work is providing water and electricity to Westwater, a predominantly Diné community just outside Blanding. Governor Deidre Henderson has visited Westwater at least three times, and the state, tribes and other partners, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are working to get town services in place. has been promised since the 1980s.

While the Navajo Nation’s relationship with the state was generally good, Nez was unhappy with the state’s lack of support for redistricting issues in San Juan County. The county has been in legal battles with the Navajo Nation over maps that attracted a majority of Diné voters to the counties for years. It wasn’t until 2017 that the maps were redrawn after the tribe sued the county for racial discrimination.

The lawsuit required the county to redraw its boundaries and resulted in a Native American-led county commission with a majority with Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes, both Dinés. There are still barriers to getting Diné people to vote in election years.

“There needs to be pressure on counties to support our Navajo voters; They have to make voting easier by trying to get as many people to vote, not making it harder,” said Nez.

He also wants the state to work with the tribe for a better police response.

Fight with the extended Bears Ears

Both tribes say the governor needs to stop the state’s expected lawsuit against Bears Ears National Monument. A coalition of tribes, including the Navajo Nation, has asked for federal protection of millions of acres filled with the cultural and archaeological remains of Utah’s indigenous inhabitants.

That defense is being threatened by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who last month selected law firm Consovoy McCarthy PLLC to be able to file a lawsuit challenging Biden’s order to restore both Bears Ears National Monuments and Grand Staircase Escalante.

On the business front, Cox was taken over by the tribes, including their tribal businesses. Paul Terry is the CEO of Cedar Band Corporation, a company founded by the Cedar Band of Paiutes, where the tribe is a shareholder. Terry says the tribe wants to be part of a proposed housing coalition to help address the state’s housing crisis.

Terry manages 11 businesses under Cedar Band Corporation, including the CBC Mortgage Agency, which helps with upfront home ownership, he said.

“We asked to be included on Governor Cox’s new Utah housing committee or the committee they are creating because we have a mortgage lending agency,” he said.

The right to water in the arid West

On water rights, Jansen added that the governor supports the Utah Navajo Water Rights Resolution Act, which would guarantee about 81,500 acres of water each year from the Colorado River to the tribe.

Steele confirmed that his tribe is working with both Utah and Nevada under a proposed Federal Water Team to begin securing water rights for the Federal Goshute Reserve. The Federal Water Team consists of the tribe and the states of Wyoming and Nevada.

“Since ancient times, we Goshutes have lived on this land. In 1863, we had a Treaty of Peace and Friendship, where the US government acknowledged that we were hunters, chiefs, men of principle, and warriors,” Steele said. “In establishing our Indian Reservation, the United States government ensured that there were sufficient reserved and protected resources available to fulfill the purposes of the Reserve, including water… Goshute must be protected to preserve the future of our people.”

Teresa Wilhelmsen, Utah’s state engineer, said Utah is working with the Navajo and Goshute tribes on their water issues.

“Utah supports and prioritizes the negotiated settlement of federally reserved water rights, including those made by India. Utah representatives have been in contact with representatives of Nevada and the Goshute tribe regarding the settlement process for the Federal Goshute Reserve,” said Wilhelmsen. “We look forward to working together on this negotiating effort.” Tribes give Cox high marks for COVID but say decision to fight Bears Ears is disappointing

Yasmin Harisha

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