Jewell and Doug James issued a stern warning to a crowd of about 50 people in the parking lot of the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake on Thursday night.
“We’re in a battle to save the earth,” Jewell said. “This administration will wipe out all the progress that we’ve had.”
The brothers, representatives from the Lummi Nation, brought with them a large totem—9 feet tall by 3 feet wide and weighing more than a ton—as a gift to the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. The Bear Totem, carved by the James siblings, left Bellingham, Wash., early Wednesday morning, arriving in Salt Lake 36 hours later. The totem symbolizes support for the restoration of Bears Ears National Monument—which President Donald Trump shrunk by 85 percent in December—and will be at the Bears Ears Meadow for an inter-tribal gathering on July 20-22, after which it will be on display at the Southern Ute Museum in Colorado.
“We have to continue to fight because Mother Earth will always go on, with us or without us,” Jewell said of the battle to protect Bears Ears from industries that cause environmental devastation.
“For me, the totem is good medicine, and it brings healing and it brings unity,” Braidan Weeks, strategic engagement specialist with Utah Diné Bikéyah, told City Weekly after representatives from the Goshute, Shoshone and Ute tribes delivered remarks on the importance of protecting ancestral lands. Weeks said the totem will be brought before different Native American tribes en route to, and at, Bears Ears
In between songs, prayers and blessings, Jewell explained that his family has been carving totems since 1972. In 2002, they started bringing totems to areas that needed healing, to pray for those who died in 9/11 at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and in Somerset County, Pa. “We’ve done a lot to encourage people to gather,” Jewell said, noting that the totems themselves are not sacred. “What is sacred is when you call people together.”
Enjoying the last few hours of sunlight on the hot summer evening, a toddler ran around the blacktop, repeatedly stopping to touch the truck holding the totem as the tribal leaders addressed the crowd. Doug was the last to speak, repeating his gratitude for those gathered and reminding everyone of the stakes.
“If we don’t take a stand, what’s going to be left for these little ones?” he asked.