“What Happened to Talking to Earth?”

"A conversation with Jonah Yellowman, Utah Dine Bikeyah’s Spiritual Advisor"

“What happened to talking to Earth?”

Jonah Yellowman, the Spiritual Advisor for Utah Dine Bikeyah, asked me this as I sat in his home in Monument Valley. I had just started an artist residency in the landscape of the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument. After five months with that marked landscape, I moved last week.

Yesterday, Secretary Zinke delivered his recommendations on National Monuments to President Trump. Yet, he kept those words pertaining to public lands private. It appears he wanted to avoid the heat of discussion. Though many are confident his verdict on Bears Ears included reducing boundaries and opening areas to extractive industries--such as mining, oil, and gas.

When people hear about my time in San Juan County, Utah they often ask for a synopsis of 'both sides,' meaning those for or against monument designation. And that division is visually apparent down south: "#NoMonument" stickers adorn every other car, while signs with "Protect Bears Ears" fill yards. And I've acquiesced to the question, sharing concerns I've heard. Though I admit, in my answer I don't give equivalency to the sides. After what I've heard and seen--the ancient stories of place, the songs, the grace amidst injustice, the tears--I can't. I cannot justify disregarding deep ties to the sacred so we may dig up more of that black liquid.

Jonah challenged me and my notions of a sentient Earth with his question, “What happened to talking to Earth?”

And I wonder if in this monumental debate, the focus should not be hearing the opinion of 'both sides.' I can hear Jonah asking me if I have the courage to instead ask Earth, and to believe there will be a reply. PC: Alisha Anderson

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