Just when you think President Trump cannot go any lower, he descends further into gutter and racist politics.
This week, the President caused outrage on both sides of the Atlantic by retweeting videos originally posted by a far-right racist group, Britain First.
“Islamophobes, white supremacists and other extremists have reacted with glee following Donald Trump’s endorsement of their worldview”, notes the Guardian this morning.
But Trump’s retweeting of the video is not the only outrage he has caused this week. On Monday, during an event at the White House to honor Native American war veterans, the Navajo Code Talkers, he implicitly attacked Senator Elizabeth Warren by calling her “Pocahontas”.
The remark was condemned by the National Congress of American Indians – the largest and oldest group representing Native Americans, and Warren who said “It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur.”
And next week, Trump’s attack on First Nations will get worse. He will go much, much lower again.
On Monday, he is due to fly into Utah to make a formal announcement that he will reduce the size of the iconic and sacred Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, which cover large parts of federal lands in the south of the state and which are culturally significant to native Americans.
If Trump gets his way, Bears Ears will be shrunk by 85 per cent from 1.35 million acres million acres to 200,000 acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante from nearly 1.9 million acres to 997,490 acres.
This is a blatant assault on First Nations and some of America’s most precious landscapes by Trump. As Mother Jones notes: “Bears Ears alone contains thousands of Native American archaeological, sacred and cultural sites”.
In December last year, when then President Obama signed the monument proclamation for Bears Ears, he outlined the: “Abundant rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial sites, and countless other artifacts provide an extraordinary archaeological and cultural record that is important to us all, but most notably the land is profoundly sacred to many Native American tribes”.
Obama continued: “Protection of the Bears Ears area will preserve its cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans”
In contrast, instead of protecting this sacred land for all Americans, Trump wants to allow mining and oil drilling on the land by his billionaire buddies.
But the President will meet stiff resistance, not least from the five First Nations tribes — the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and the Ute Indian Tribe — which make up the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, that called for the monument in the first place. According to all five tribes, the area is covered with burial grounds and cultural sites.
Natalie Landreth, senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund told the Salt Lake Tribune. “The tribes view this as an affront to themselves and their own self-determination. All of us, all five tribes, will be suing jointly the day he makes an announcement.”
Environmental and conservation groups are equally outraged. The Center for Western Priorities are also quoted by the Tribune saying that Trump’s move would be the “largest rollback of protections for lands and wildlife in U.S. history.”
The group’s executive director, Jennifer Rokala argues: “The president is capping his celebration of Native American Heritage Month by opening the door to new drilling and mining on land considered sacred by tribal nations. After his appalling remarks at the White House on Monday, President Trump’s assault on tribal interests continues at a staggering pace.”
Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity tells the Tribune. “This illegal action will cement Trump’s legacy as one of the worst presidents in modern history. Trump has no clue how much people love these sacred and irreplaceable landscapes, but he’s about to find out. He’s shown his blatant disregard for public lands, Native Americans and the law. We look forward to seeing him in court.”
And again Trump can only go so far. Congress would also need to make changes to the Antiquities Act too.
Despite this, tomorrow a protest is due to take place in Salt Lake City to protest “against Trump’s monumental mistake.” The event is being organized by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which calls Trump’s action “illegal and unwarranted”, and “an affront to Native American Tribes.”
The Alliance’s website says: “Let’s send a clear and visible message that we intend to ‘Honor Tribes’ and defend the priceless scientific, cultural, and ecological legacy these monuments represent.”