When President Donald Trump announced big cuts to national monuments in Utah Monday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also recommended Trump create three new monuments, including one in his home state of Montana.
In a draft memo to the president leaked earlier this year, Zinke proposed making the Badger Two-Medicine area in northwest Montana a national monument. The 200-square-mile swath of U.S. Forest Service land borders Glacier National Park and is sacred to the Blackfeet Nation.
Tribal chairman Harry Barnes says Badger-Two Medicine was a refuge when the federal government was trying to erase the Blackfeet’s religion and history.
“A lot of people retreated into the Badger Two-Medicine area and so they went up there for ceremonies, they went up there on vision quests and to teach their children as much as they could, the old ways, the ancient ways,” he says.
The Blackfeet tribal council opposes creating a new national monument unless they are allowed to co-manage the area. That would require a change in law by congress.
But as President Trump stood on the the steps of Utah’s state capitol Monday, he made no mention of the proposed national monument at Badger Two-Medicine, nor ten other monuments Zinke suggested changing or creating.
Trump did, however, reduce the size of two large-scale national monuments on land sacred to American Indians.
“We have seen how this tragic federal overreach prevents many Native Americans from having their rightful voice over the sacred land where they practice their most important ancestral and religious traditions,” he said.
Both Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah were among 27 national monuments Trump ordered Zinke to review in April, including the Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana. That monument was left intact by both Zinke’s review and Trump’s proclamation Monday.
Last week, Barnes said the Interior Department had not updated the tribe on the status of the proposed monument at Badger Two-Medicine. It is uncertain when the president will make a decision on that designation.