Good News: New million-acre National Monument protects sacred tribal lands by Grand Canyon

President Biden signing proclamation of new national monument with tribal leaders, elected officials, and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Credit: US Department of the Interior

By Kaitlyn Scanlon, Alliance Intern from Oregon State University ’26

Great news! One million acres of public land surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park, equivalent to roughly 756,250 football fields, have been officially declared a national monument by President Biden. This long-sought victory to protect native lands from new mining and misuse is a result of extensive lobbying by Arizona tribal nations and environmental groups, according to Good News Network (GNN).

Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni (“where our ancestors roamed”), or Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, is a fitting tribute to the thousands of newly protected sites bearing cultural and sacred significance to Southwest tribal nations. These tribes include the Havasupai Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Navajo Nation, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, the Colorado River Indian Tribe, and five bands of the Paiute, as told by GNN.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary and a Laguna Pueblo, highlights how these areas surrounding the Grand Canyon “are sacred and significant and deserve protection” — they aren’t merely “a passthrough on the way to the Grand Canyon,” according to GNN. Haaland stated that being a part of the announcement meant everything to her, and given the fact that it’s been 104 years since the Havasupai and other Southwestern tribes were “driven out from their lands” following the Grand Canyon National Park establishment, it’s not hard to see why. 

While the monument is “subject to valid existing rights and would not prevent the development of existing mining claims,” the good news is that its establishment makes the temporary ban on new mining enacted by the Obama Administration de facto permanent. That’s great news for the preservation of natural beauty and sacred spaces found within this national monument. For the actual logistics of the land designation, the monument is set to be divided among three distinct conservation districts that are connected along the present-day boundaries of the Grand Canyon National Park. 

In a short, fascinating video, Havasupai tribe members delve into what makes their land so invaluable and deserving of this protection. They explain how everything — from rocks, to trees, to rabbits — is medicine, how each part of nature is deeply interconnected, and how uniquely important each and every piece is. The video makes clear exactly why more conservation and reclamation efforts are sorely needed. It’s about time that these sacred lands are protected.

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