The beleaguered and persecuted white guys in southern Utah are actually brothers in arms with the Native Americans who were massacred and driven off their lands.
That was the message given to the Utah Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands at its November meeting at the Capitol.
“Red Cloud said the white man made many promises but only kept one. They took our land,” Garfield County Engineer Brian Bremner testified to the commission.
“We have much in common with the Native American tribes,” he said. “We are being pushed off our lands [by] the great white fathers east of the Mississippi.”
Bremner was one of several county officials to testify to the commission about management plans devised by their respective counties over public lands within their boundaries if the counties were allowed to have control.
He accused the federal agencies managing those lands of “malignant neglect,” which is destroying the balance between the Earth and humankind.
And the white settlers have been charged with protecting the land against the “great white fathers,” who must be whiter than they are.
Stating that those great white fathers know not what they are doing, it is up to officials in southern Utah counties like Garfield, Piute, Kane and San Juan to do it because of their God-given mandate.
Humans are the species given the assignment to take care of the Earth, Bremner said, “to have dominion over it, subdue it and to multiply and replenish it. When you think of the guy who gave us that charge, that’s a pretty tall charge.
Perhaps the Hole in the Rock expedition, in which Mormon scouts in 1879 found a shortcut to southeastern Utah, was their version of the Trail of Tears.
Bremner’s testimony, given, I’m sure, in sincerity, came around the same time in mid-November that a coalition of Native American tribes — Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni — issued a statement critical of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s perceived dismissal of their concerns about protecting sacred grounds and artifacts in Bears Ears National Monument that the Trump administration is preparing to shrink.
The statement noted that when Zinke visited Utah to review the monument, he spent most of his time with those white local officials who oppose the monument while ignoring the concerns of Native Americans who want to preserve it.
So much for brothers in arms suffering together from the tyranny of the great white fathers.
Around the same time as Bremner’s testimony, Wesley Jones, president of the Aneth Chapter House of the Utah Navajos, wrote an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune that complained how those fellow persecuted white brothers in San Juan County have manipulated voting boundaries to keep the whites in charge and deprive Native Americans of the same government services they enjoy.
“Our county is 53 percent Native American, there are three County Commission seats, yet the commissioners have created one Native American district and two predominantly white districts by drawing boundaries along racial lines,” he wrote. “Unsurprisingly, Native Americans have never held two County Commission seats despite being the majority population.”
The result has been an unequal distribution of government services and benefits between the more white populations of Monticello and Blanding and the Navajo-dominated areas of the county.
The Navajos in San Juan County are “the poorest of the poor in the United States,” Jones wrote. “Most of us are in need of running water and electricity in our homes. Our children drive ours to attend school.”
Jones wrote in support of a lawsuit to have voting districts redrawn in San Juan County. He noted that the Utah Navajos have sued the county and the state seven times in the past 30 years over discriminatory provision of government services, and the Navajos have won every time.
So, it’s the white settlers being discriminated against by the great white fathers east of the Mississippi? Really?
Rep. Joel Briscoe is one of two Democrats on the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands.
He told me of the amusement he and fellow Salt Lake City Democratic Rep. Brian King felt when they attended a hearing in Bluff last year with then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell over the proposed Bears Ears monument.
It was when San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams spoke about the frustrations locals voiced over federal restrictions on the land. Adams noted that the residents’ ancestors settled the area 150 years ago, a statement that brought gasps from the Native Americans in the audience, Briscoe said.
Somehow, I think, those who gasped don’t feel the same shared persecution that Bremner described in his testimony last month.