Reactions: Patricia Yeaman, mother, accountant, Navajo
“The government has always in a sense broken treaties, this is the same thing all over again.”
Editor’s note: This story is part of a larger project to learn how local communities feel about Trump’s efforts to gut national monument lands. You can watch more reactions here.
First came the insult, then came the injury.
On Nov. 27, Patricia Yeaman watched President Donald Trump disparage a political rival as “Pocahontas,” while standing in the Oval Office next to two of the last surviving Navajo Code talkers. Their native language, indecipherable to the Germans, had helped the United States military win World War II. But Trump’s racial slur stole the focus away from them.
Then she learned that one week later, Trump would travel to Utah and announce that he was removing protections from 1.1 million of the 1.35 million acres of Bears Ears National Monument. The monuments had been designated mere months earlier after years of advocacy by the Navajos and other tribal nations.
“The government has always, in a sense, broken treaties,” she said. “This is the same thing all over again.”
Yeaman, 53, who is Navajo, an accountant, and a resident of Tooele, Utah, came to the state capitol building in Salt Lake City on Dec. 1 with her daughter Charicia Yeaman, 17. They protested Trump’s executive order, which he would deliver inside that building two days later, to cut Bears Ears by 85 percent, and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument by 50 percent. That rescission of more than two million acres would be, according to former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, the largest elimination of protected areas in the history of the U.S.
That is, of course, considering the U.S. only from a non-indigenous perspective.
Yeaman said she was relieved, and proud, when President Barack Obama designated Bears Ears National Monument at the end of December, 2016. It meant a recognizing of the dignity of native people; an honoring of tribal sovereignty; and committing to the protection of rare desert flora, fauna and water.
Trump rebukes all of that, Yeaman said.
“He’s trashing our sacred land,” she said. “He has no respect for us as natives, he does not care about our opinion, our beliefs.”
She was taught to believe, she said, that the earth is her mother and the sky is her father. Therefore, to show love to her parents is to care for her environment. This means supporting designations like Bears Ears National Monument, which protects her mother.
She wondered aloud if Trump respects his father and his mother. Does he love them? As the sun set her daughter hugged herself inside a Navajo blanket and nudged into her mother’s side for warmth. Yeaman snuggled back and gripped her sign. It read, “Protect Bears Ears.”