SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah League of Native American Voters is demanding that Sen. Orrin Hatch apologize for his remarks during a press conference with U.S. Interior Secretary Zinke.
Moroni Benally, co-founder of the Utah League of Native American Voters stood in solidarity with dozens of supporters at the Federal Building in downtown Salt Lake Tuesday morning.
When asked about tribal support Hatch claimed Native Americans who supported Bears Ears were manipulated and the ‘far left’ has other plans for the 1.35 million acres in southeastern Utah.
"The Indians, they don't fully understand that a lot of the things that they currently take for granted on those lands, they won't be able to do if it's made clearly into a monument or a wilderness," Hatch said.
When asked how he would describe the Senators comments, Benally said, “Incendiary, racially charged, inflammatory, incredibly in poor taste.”
The Utah League of Native American Voters said since 2011, they, along with attorneys, medicine people, policy researchers, anthropologist, ethnologists and economists, have been working on the Bears Ears National Monument designation. They continued by claiming Hatch dismissed their work on the monument without compunction.
"Sen. Hatch is not being honest and his words are racially charged, inflammatory and incredibly disrespectful to me as Tribal Councilman, and to all our highly educated tribal members working on the Bears Ears," Navajo Nation Council Delegate Nate Brown said.
Carl Moore, Peaceful Advocates for Native Dialogue and Organizing Support, said the Senators tone was condescending and is demanding an apology.
“He obviously thinks that he knows better than us. He thinks he can tell us what we need and that's something that's happened to us, Native Americans, since the beginning," Moore said.
Senator Hatch’s office would not comment any further on his remarks. But pointed out that he does, in fact, have the support of many tribal members, including San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally.
Hatch visited Bears Ears last month and his office says the Senator was relaying some of the Navajo people’s concerns and clarifying what they would lose under a monument designation.
Still, those who gathered Tuesday say their voices are being drowned out.
“When you're listening to one, but ignoring the voice of 1000 there's something clearly wrong,” said Benally.
For more information check out the Utah League of Native Americans Voters event page.