Leaders of the Ute Indian Tribe blasted President Joe Biden for designating Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument in Colorado on Wednesday without sufficient tribal consultation, calling Biden’s action “an unlawful act of genocide.”
Biden traveled to the mountainous region near Leadville, Colorado, and used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the 53,804-acre national monument, which includes the military camp where the 10th Mountain Division trained during World War II as well as the surrounding national forest land.
Hours later, the Ute Indian Tribe — which is headquartered in Ft. Duchesne, Utah — released a lengthy statement condemning the administration’s failure to formally consult the tribe, noting that the traditional homelands of the tribe’s Uncompahgre Band are within the monument area.
“These new monuments are an abomination and demonstrate manifest disregard and disrespect of the Ute Indian Tribe’s treaty rights and sovereign status as a federally recognized Indian Tribe,” said Shaun Chapoose, chairman of the tribe’s governing council and an Uncompahgre Band member.
The Uncompahgre Band was forced off of the lands that are in the new monument in 1880 after an act of Congress pushed them to the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northern Utah in what tribal leaders described as a “forced death march at the hands of the United States as we were moved out of Colorado at gunpoint.”
The tribe said they only learned of the monument designation plans days ago. Although elected leaders participated in a White House call earlier this week, “few details were shared,” they said.
“[The Biden administration] moved forward with a monument on our homelands without including us,” the Tribal Business Committee, the governing council of the Ute Indian Tribe, said in the statement. “They talk about tribal consultation, but their actions do not match their words. We cannot support a monument on our homelands that does not include the Tribe.”
The Ute Indian Tribe formally supported the designation of the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah, which was created at the request of numerous tribes with ancestral ties to the region in 2016 by then-President Barack Obama.
After former President Donald Trump reduced the monument by 85% in 2017, the Ute Indian Tribe joined the other four members of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition to sue Trump over the action.
The monument’s boundaries were restored by Biden last year, and the five tribes in the coalition entered into an inter-government agreement with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to develop a management plan and to inform management decisions in Bears Ears.
Last year, Biden appointed Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo, to head the Department of Interior. She is the first Native American to serve in a presidential cabinet post.
Biden also appointed Chuck Sams of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation to lead the National Park Service. Sams is the first tribal citizen to fill that role.
Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument is the first new monument Biden has designated, and the action was supported by a broad coalition of veterans, business owners, hunters and anglers as well as numerous conservation organizations. Colorado senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, Rep. Joe Neguse and Gov. Jared Polis praised Biden’s action.
Members of the 10th Mountain Division trained in mountain combat tactics at Camp Hale, often on skis, during World War II, and many veterans later became involved in Colorado’s ski industry.
In his remarks Wednesday, Biden acknowledged the area’s importance for veterans and the Indigenous connections to the Colorado landscape.
“For thousands of years,” Biden said, “Tribal Nations have been stewards of this sacred land, hunting game, foraging for medicinal plants, and maintaining a deep, spiritual bond with the land itself. But by the 1800s, mining activity and federal government drove out Indigenous Tribes from their homes. But those Tribes continued to use these sacred lands.”
Members of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe — which is headquartered in Ignacio, Colorado, and has ancestral ties to the Camp Hale area — were present at the signing of the presidential proclamation Wednesday.
The Ute Indian Tribe said Biden had “reverted to discredited federal policies of ‘chief making’ by attempting to pick and choose between tribes and tribal leaders.” They went on to condemn the Biden administration for failing to include the tribe in the management of the monument.
The Tribal Business Committee is also calling on the Biden administration to restore 1.8 million acres of unceded Ute land within the Uncompahgre Reservation in Utah to the tribe. The land is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
“The United States cannot move forward without acknowledging and accepting its past and taking meaningful action to address these issues with our Tribal homelands now,” the committee said. “Unless and until this happens, the United States will always have this deplorable history hanging over it as a black cloud and will never be able to advance to a position of a nation with moral and legal legitimacy, which will forever limit its standing in the world community.”