Veterans and youth from Soul River Inc. visit Bears Ears

In June, veterans and youth with Soul River Inc. embarked on a cross-cultural science expedition to Bears Ears National Monument and the surrounding community.

Upon arrival to the Navajo Nation, the Oljato Veterans Organization welcomed Soul River Inc. veterans into the community celebration to participate in the raising of the colors: “We stood together in this moment of emotional and life transforming experience as we marched together with Navajo veterans. We stand together as one from the battle to the community on to our land.”

Photo: Chad Brown

Participants shared their experiences and what they learned through journal entries:

“This is our critical moment. We have earned a great deal of healing on our journey, and now we must return the favor. Bears Ears has the ability to reground ourselves, have moments of serenity in nature, + to heal the broken bond between us and indigenous peoples.” – Riley Brooks

“Bears Ears National Monument is a place where community is created and where memories will last forever. It is a land that heals everyone who embraces its presence. It is a place that needs to be protected, not just for the people and the land, but for the community it creates. It is my job to advocate for the protection of Bears Ears and I will continue to do so until change happens.” – Kiran Weasel

“Because Bears Ears is being taken care of by Native tribes it is important for them to know and participate, or be included in all management or decision making of the land they live in, the land they take in so sacred and dear to their hearts and culture.” – Kenia Claros Martinez

“By welcoming us into the community, the Navajo Nation took the first steps towards what America needs as a nation: healing. I experienced their generosity first hand and I know that they are willing to share more of their culture with those who want to listen.” – Andre Tharp

“Anyone who is willing to open their heart and mind will be forever changed by the outstanding culture and history Bears Ears offers. Going on this trip with Soul River Inc. I really had no clue of what to expect. I never thought in a million years that I’d walk away with lifelong connections and a whole new view on life and my priorities.” – Ayanna Beaudoin

“I feel it is our responsibility to make sure people can have the same experience I did…Rather than destroying Bears Ears we should invite people with mental and emotional pain to come get healed like I and the vets did.” – Gabriel Bliss

“Native people hold a vast amount of knowledge about this land as well as how to care for it properly…Their love for this land extends to everything that lives off of it. We have nothing to fear if all we want is harmony and health.” – Sofina Gilbert

“In a sweat lodge I participated in, a Navajo woman prayed for Bears Ears and for Donald Trump. She prayed he could just pause for a moment and think, clear his head and really think about what he is doing. How powerful is that, her praying for the person she is fighting against?” – McKenna Erickson

To stand with Bears Ears and learn more, visit:
Monuments For All Action Page
Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition
Utah Diné Bikéyah