President Biden Designates New National Monument In Grand Canyon

August 8, 2023
House Rock Valley within the proposed Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument. Baaj Nwaavjo means “where tribes roam” for the Havasupai Tribe, and I’tah Kukveni means “our footprints” for the Hopi Tribe. Photo credit: Taylor McKinnon / Center for Biological Diversity

It will protect objects of historic and scientific importance for the benefit of tribes, the public and for future generations.

United States Interior Secretary Deb Haaland – the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary – on President Joe Biden’s designation of a new national monument near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Tuesday’s designation marks the fifth National Monument Pres. Biden has established.

Why It Matters: President Biden designated nearly 1 million acres of land to the north and south of the Grand Canyon National Park as a new national monument, protecting land sacred to indigenous peoples as well as banning new uranium mining claims on the land. The monument will be preserved for outdoor recreation, and managed under a co-stewardship agreement between the federal government and "tribes with deep connections to the canyon and region" (azcentral).

The monument is called the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. "Baaj Nwaavjo" means “where Indigenous peoples roam” in the Havasupai Tribe language, and "I’tah Kukveni means “our ancestral footprints” in the Hopi Tribe language. The White House says, "The name reflects the significance of the Grand Canyon area, not just to one, but to many Tribal Nations."

More Details: The White House's fact sheet on the monument explains: "The area includes many natural wonders, from sweeping plateaus and deep canyons to meandering creeks and streams that ultimately flow into the mighty Colorado River, providing water to millions of people across the Southwest." The lands also contain a variety of wildlife, such as bighorn sheep, bison, owls and bald eagles, as well as 3,000+ known historic and cultural sites. The designation of the monument has drawn praise from environmentalists and Native American tribes, while also drawing criticism from the mining community, with one mining company saying new mining in the area would provide more carbon-free energy.

Big Picture: Prior to today's announcement, there have been more than 130 designated National Monuments in the U.S. since President Theodore Roosevelt established the first monument – Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. The ability for a president to establish a national monument became possible with the 1906 Antiquities Act, which "was the first U.S. law to provide general legal protection of cultural and natural resources of historic or scientific interest on federal lands" (NPS). Seventeen presidents – from both political parties – have created national monuments.

FACT SHEET: President Biden Designates Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument

Biden to designate a new national monument on sacred tribal lands near the Grand Canyon

Preserving Sacred Ancestral Lands

Biden makes Grand Canyon monument designation, citing Arizona tribal heritage, climate concerns

Photo Credit: Taylor McKinnon / Center for Biological Diversity

by Jenna Lee,