In this episode, we interview Angelo Baca and Dr. Thomas Murphy about U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he will be shrinking the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. President Trump visited Utah on Monday, 12/4/2017 to make this announcement. Our guests for this episode share how they believe this is a continuation of white settlers putting claim on indigenous land in order to extract valuable minerals, and attempt to put this action into a Mormon context.

Angelo Baca, Native American filmmaker, Navajo and Hopi, works on educational films, fiction and non-fiction. A graduate of Native Voices Program at the University of Washington, he has done numerous documentaries and collaborative works with other filmmakers. His first interactions with Food Sovereignty have been with Pacific Northwest Coastal tribes who introduced him to a rich variety of culturally and nutritionally amazing foods with traditional foods specialists and teachers. Recently, he taught at Brown University both Native American Literature and Native American Media/Film courses. His research interests vary from indigenous food sovereignty and Native American health and wellness to indigenous film and cinema to native youth development projects, including indigenous international repatriation.

Dr. Thomas Murphy Murphy teaches in the Department of Anthropology at Edmonds Community College in Washington state. He earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Washington in 2003. He is a returning guest to Mormon Stories Podcast.



  1. Biff December 14, 2017 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    The land will be taken care of just fine. Everybody is worried about drilling and mining etc. It could take a long time before that happens if it does. There are only a few interesting parts to Bears Ears. So it needed a reduction. There is a lot more land that needs to be reduced.

    A bunch of belly aching over land that no private citizen controlled anyway. Antiquities act has been abused quite a bit and I laugh at the challenges that you can create but you can modify. Give me a break. Politicians are going to do what they want. It’s quite obvious.

  2. Andrew December 16, 2017 at 5:35 am - Reply

    Interesting podcast that stretches my thinking and views a bit, probably for the better.

    Thank you John and guests for that. It is a complex issue that can get very partisan very quickly. Ultimately, all of the stakeholders need a voice and need to be heard. Hopefully, our elected officials can be integral men and women, remember the rights of the individual, and vote/lead their conscious.

    As others have stated,I too would be interested in a follow up podcast with those that were opposed to the monument as designated by President Obama.

  3. Shawn December 16, 2017 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    In my opinion, towards the end of the podcast Mr. Murphy layed on the Lefts point of view as thick as any other Mormon stories podcast ever. To me it sounded very much like the philosophies of men mingled with truths.

    • Thomas Murphy December 18, 2017 at 11:46 am - Reply


      I did get a little bombastic there towards the end. If I had a chance to answer that question again I would refer to the Deseret News editorial that called upon Donald Trump to resign in the aftermath of the release of the Access Hollywood tapes in which the candidate bragged about sexually assaulting women. That call for his resignation was the most appropriate and moral stance. I think that the LDS Church leadership should hold to that position even more so now and encourage the President to resign for those same reasons, plus additional ones where his campaign’s connections to Russia put our national and global security at risk. These reasons are independent of any political position taken in regards to Bears Ears but instead are moral ones about the basic level of decency and patriotism one should expect from elected officials in the United States.

  4. VFanRJ December 17, 2017 at 8:40 am - Reply

    A significant portion of the interview drills down into the racism of the Book of Mormon and Mormonism and maps it to Hatch’s campaign to protect land that is sacred to native Americans.

  5. VFanRJ December 17, 2017 at 8:49 am - Reply

    What makes this podcast one of the most important MormonStories of the year is that it mapped racism contained in the Book of Mormon and infused into Mormonism to current events.

    Very well done.

    • Todd December 17, 2017 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      Except there wasn’t much evidence that Mormon racism played into the decision.

      I’m Mormon and highly sceptical of how Obama stretched the Antiquities Act to designate that huge space as a Monument. For me it’s about govt overreach. Nothing to do with racism. I suspect it’s that way for many others.

      • Thomas Murphy December 18, 2017 at 11:58 am - Reply


        The Mormon disregard for the integrity of Indigenous graves and artifacts is at the heart of the request by the Bears Ears Coalition to protect the antiquities in southeast Utah. Mormons have been looting Bears Ears since their arrival in the latter part of the 19th Century. In doing so they are following in the footsteps of Joseph Smith and other early Mormons who engaged in money digging and grave robbery. If Mormons already respected and protected these antiquities like we do the cemeteries of our own ancestors then there would not have been the need to request additional protections. Likewise, if the local political structure in San Juan County, dominated by white Mormons (a minority in the county), was not so institutionally racist that it prevents the majority Native population from exercising a real voice in local politics then there would have been no need to seek assistance from the federal government. Similarly, if the Mormon politicians set aside their paternalistic attitude towards Natives and supported tribal sovereignty in a genuine form then there would have been no need to seek federal protections via a monument designation. Mormon racism is at the very heart of the issue!!!

  6. anewearth December 17, 2017 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed this thought provoking podcast! I have visited and studied this amazing area for years. I am disappointed that so many people rely on sound bites and Facebook memes to decide such an important issue. The entire Monument was already federal BLM land, so there has been no federal land grab. I have visited ruins that locals have destroyed by backhoe, searching for ancient relics and pots. There are some locals that want to see this land given to the state of Utah, so that it can be sold to the highest bidder and closed off to the public. But, there are many others that are happy to see the rise in tourism that has brought the small towns of Bluff and Blanding some economic prosperity. If you care enough to post comments regarding this issue, please go down to this exceptional area and visit! Meet the working class people, both Native American and white, that are attempting to make a living, there. This is definitely a Mormon Story…Old Mormon families possess all the power, the private land, and the prosperity. They have a vested interest in keeping this place the same. The monument status is a double edge sword, for sure…it will bring in more visitors, and many of these incredible ruins and petroglyphs will possibly be loved to death. But, if we want to have anything of value to pass on to the generations that will come after us, we have to start protecting these wild and beautiful places. I’ve traveled all over the world, but the Bears Ears area is a special place where you can lose yourself. It’s grand, it’s sacred, and it’s precious.

    • Thomas Murphy December 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm - Reply

      Thank you for the thoughtful response!

  7. Bliss Doubt December 17, 2017 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Thank you for demonstrating that history is now, history is following the same trajectory it traveled when the genocide of native populations began. This interview helped me learn as much as I learned in Gina Colvin’s interview with Elise Boxer about the Dakota Access Pipeline. These issued are explored in far greater depth than anybody will ever get in the mainstream media.

  8. Thomas Murphy December 18, 2017 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    For those who might have missed it, check out Angelo Baca’s editorial in the New York Times.

    Also, if you’d like to explore the Mormon connections more deeply and haven’t already seen the article that Angelo and I wrote prior to Obama’s designation of Bears Ears as a monument see the link below.

  9. Rex Shupe December 19, 2017 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Rich, I’m not sure that would be an accurate statement to blame the majority of looting and vandalism and upon the visitors of the Nat’l parks and Monuments. Just a cursory observation dictates that it is the locals that do most of the damage (freedom ride out of Kanab), looting (FBI case against a large party of Blandingites for looting, desecration, and black market selling of looted items) and vandalism (bullet shots at petroglyphs and pictographs all throughout the Colorado Plateau). It’s the local’s willingness to sell the land to the extraction industries, the ranchers for grazing and the unbridled logging for economic gain that gives many pause to handing control of federal lands to “the locals”. Cliven Bundy is epitome of “local” control. The irony is that the long term economic vitality to these communities in the plateau lie not in the boom and bust of the extraction economy, but in a tourist economy. The local government including the state of Utah will sell the dollars of limited resources that exist above and underground to the private out of state entities that enrichen the few, and placate the locals with pennies of temporary jobs and a handful of paltry benefits. And yes I will posit that there are dynamics that you bring up that need to be addressed (I actually agree with Trump that we should raise the price of Nat’l park and Monument entrance to $75 a car). It has been my experience that people who take the time to visit and appreciate the land that’s designated as protected and rare, seem to police themselves rather well and take care to stay on designated roads, paths and trails far more than the flippancy of the those that claim to “occupy” the land.

    There is no perfect solution, but the designation under the antiquities act gave more land the most protection from encroachment of industry and activity that harms the land, including protecting the old bones and cultural artifacts of the ancients petitioned by the majority of the Tribal entities of the region.

    • Thomas Murphy December 19, 2017 at 10:44 am - Reply

      Nicely stated Rex!

  10. Joe December 20, 2017 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    Read through this a while ago, for a 2nd opinion, not sure what to make of it– the first link is the Dine’ (Navajo) statement against Bears Ears, 2nd is an article in the Moab Times, a more local view–

  11. Joe December 20, 2017 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    Hi John, haven’t talked to you in a while. I don’t have time to listen right now, but I hope you’re trying to do something good with this. Many anti-mormons take up a good cause every once in a while, maybe not as genuine interest, but at least so they can be more effective at leading people from faith in Christ. I hope you are genuine in this one. I believe Native Americans should decide what happens to Bears Ears. I think it’s sad that you try to lead Native Americans from the parts of their heritage that relate to the Book of Mormon and the immigrants who came over the past 4000 years or so. There is abundant evidence that many, if not all, Native Americans are related to Lehi, as well as more ancient immigrants. The BofM teaches that Native Americans have been given lands here, in the Americas. Those “Gentiles” who wish to live here must be adopted into Native American families. I know you fight against this (but maybe not here, as part of this show) but please don’t use Bears Ears to bolster the negativity you spread against Church members of all races, including millions with Native American blood. Have a great day.

  12. Dan Martinez December 21, 2017 at 11:54 am - Reply

    I listened to this Podcast and have thought a lot about the content, I cant restrain myself from commenting any longer. The antiquities act was a very huge land/access grant that the Obama administration greatly abused. I have experience with public land use and permitting. Obamas placement of the Bears Ears Monument could have potentially affected the Native Americans ability to use their own lands for generations to come. Protecting their land is fine but this was an overreach and trump actually benefited the Native Americans in this case. Next I would like to comment in regard to much of Angelo’s ideas about the exploitation of the Native American People. Do you really think that this vast country with all of its resources would have been left to a few tribes of native people forever? The world was growing, countries were exploring and technology was advancing quickly. Dont get me wrong there were wrong doings and atrocities committed toward the Native Americans but there have been efforts the help and make restitution as well. There have been billions of dollars paid out in mineral right royalties to native american tribes. Roads, bridges infrastructure has been built with US tax payer dollars. Native Americans have benefited from the technological advancements that have given them better health, longer lifespans, more peace, better education, and national security. I know that many Native Americans have served in the military I do not take anything away from them but they also have benefited greatly from the protection that they receive from the US military. There were far more violent, ruthless countries that could have later come to North America and had they come before the European Christians the final state of the Native Americans could and most certainly would have been far worse. They probably would have committed complete genocide like had happened in many other parts of the world upon native people. Again I do not dismiss the atrocities committed but lets not forget the benefits/efforts that have been made to help in the after math. We all would like a more simplistic life style but in my opinion the world has changed and we must move on. We can spend forever dwelling on the days gone bye or the historical events that shaped this country but we will remain divided and progress will not be made. We must learn from the past unite and move on.

  13. Stephanie Lobrot February 7, 2018 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Environmental groups had been after the protection of this land for years (and I believe with good reason) before Bill Clinton signed it into law. I don’t think he did it to finger Utah as much as to gain favor with environmental groups nationwide. But whether he did it to finger Utah or for any other political motivation, this illustrates the problem with being a state that sits so predominantly in only one party. No president, whether Republican or Democrat, is going to sway the votes of this state in the presidential election. So no president really needs to pay any attention to the political ramifications of what they do in Utah. What they do in Utah only plays out politically for presidential candidates, if it is seen on a national stage. Bill Clinton signed it into law in Arizona because the Grand Canyon was initially designated through the Antiquities Act before it became a national park. I think he was trying to draw the comparison. But whatever he was trying to do, he definitely got a national audience. Ah to be a swing state!

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