TUSAYAN, Ariz. — U.S. President Joe Biden, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren, and tribal leaders from across the region celebrated the new Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument today.
Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni translates to Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon.
The monument was established by President Biden under the Antiquities Act. It prohibits uranium mining within its boundaries and echoes a similar ban enacted in 2005 by the Navajo Nation.
“The Grand Canyon is home to life of all kinds and is an ecosystem we must protect,” said President Nygren. “We know from firsthand experience the damage that can be caused by uranium mining and processing that contaminates our water and poisons our animals and our children.”
Touching the western border of the Navajo Nation, the Grand Canyon, and the Colorado River are culturally significant places in Navajo traditions and lifeways. The Navajo Nation has advocated for those who have suffered from uranium contamination through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. The area around the Grand Canyon has always been a source of strength and refuge for the Navajo people.
The Diné Natural Resources Protection Act, passed in 2005 by the Navajo Nation, enacted a ban on uranium mining and processing on Navajo lands. It acknowledged the devastation of past uranium mines on health and the environment.
The Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument acknowledges the spirit of the Navajo law to protect the land from uranium mining, President Nygren said.
The Navajo Nation joined a coalition of tribes to support greater protection for the Grand Canyon region because of the continuing threat of uranium mining in the area.
The establishment of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument underscores the collaborative efforts among the federal government and tribes.
President Nygren called for tribal co-management of the new national monument as the next step.
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