SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah News) - Some Native American tribal leaders called President Donald Trump's proclamations to drastically reduce the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments "a declaration of war". Now they plan to fight in court.
Just hours after President Trump signed the executive orders, Native American tribal leaders called them "illegal" at a news conference in Downtown Salt Lake City Monday afternoon.
Ethel Branch is the Attorney General of the Navajo Nation.
"There is nothing in the Antiquities Act that authorizes the President to modify a national monument once it's been designated," Branch told reporters and supporters.
Ute Tribal Council Member Shawn Chapoose said that to "Make America Great Again" the President and members of Congress need to listen to the first Americans.
"I am upset with our own Congressional delegation for allowing him to go down that road," Chapoose told ABC4 Utah News.
The Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Mountain Ute and Zuni tribal governments plan to file that lawsuit to stop the reductions of the monuments, which they call an attack on their people, culture and history.
"You're mad at me for fighting back when really it wasn't me that chose the fight," Chapoose said. "But it is my responsibility to fight the fight."
They say it's also a fight over tribal sovereignty.
"What we're seeing happen is a President that has no understanding of what an Indian tribe is as a government," Branch said. :He doesn't understand that we have a nation to nation relationship that's established in treaties and Federal Common Law and in Congress."
The tribal leaders acknowledged the possibility of Native American people acting on their own to stage a Dakota Access Pipeline-type occupation of those lands if necessary.
Watch announcement from the Tribal leaders here: