Last month, many African Americans lauded President Joe Biden’s action in establishing a national monument in tribute to Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.  A chorus of cheers now will resound from the Native American population with his designation of a new national monument near the Grand Canyon to protect lands sacred to Indigenous people.

On Tuesday, Biden spoke at the Historic Red Butte Airfield in Arizona prior to signing the proclamation and visiting the Grand Canyon. What he proposes will place a permanent ban on new uranium mining claims in the area that covers nearly a million acres. 

“Our nation’s history is etched in our people and our lands,” the president said. “Today’s action is going to protect and preserve that history, along with these high plateaus and deep canyons.”

The announcement comes after a yearslong effort and is part of Biden’s trip to shore up his presidential campaign on climate change and the economic challenges facing Americans in the West.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to hold the position, said the plan was “historic.” 

“It will help protect lands that many tribes referred to as their eternal home, a place of healing and a source of spiritual sustenance. It will help ensure that indigenous peoples can continue to use these areas for religious ceremonies, hunting, and gathering of plants, medicines, and other materials, including some found nowhere else on Earth,” Haaland said. “It will protect objects of historic and scientific importance for the benefit of tribes, the public, and for future generations.”

According to the announcement, the national monument will be named Baaj Nwaavjo l’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument. This designation follows a proposal drafted by Grand Canyon Tribal Coalition and means “where tribes roam” in Havasupai, and “l’tah Kuvkeni” translates to “our ancestral footprints” in Hopi.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, putting a different spin on the notion that the monument was a campaign gambit, said, “We’re going to continue to do our jobs and continue to talk about it … And the hope is that we’ll get our message out. We’ll see, I think, Americans start to feel and see what it is that we have been able to do in Washington, D.C.”

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